2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Forbidden Metaphors: Rewriting the Real in 20th Century France


Fall 2011, Winter 2012 and Spring 2012 quarters

Marianne Bailey foreign languages and literature , Olivier Soustelle (F,W) art history, French , Judith Gabriele French language , Steven Hendricks book arts, literature, creative writing , Stacey Davis European history
Fields of Study
aesthetics, art history, cultural studies, history, language studies, literature, philosophy, study abroad and writing
Preparatory for studies or careers in
humanities, advanced French studies, diplomacy and international relations.

...man is struck dumb...or he will speak only in forbidden metaphors...
Friedrich Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense"

Nietzsche's critique of traditional Western values--dismantling absolutes of God, Truth, Self and Language--opened up an abyss. "Only as an aesthetic phenomenon," Nietzsche argued, would "human life and existence be eternally justified." Meaning and Self would be individually crafted, as the artist crafts a work, in the space of a human existence. Life, as Rimbaud wrote, must be remade.

Inspired by this notion of remaking life along aesthetic lines, we will study literature and creative writing, critical theory and philosophy, art history and music as well as French language. Students will participate in lectures, films and workshops, and choose between seminar groups in literature and critical theory or history. Each will develop a substantive individual (or group) project, and will be able to study French language at the Beginning, Intermediate or Advanced level.

To better understand Modernist and Postmodernist avant-garde, we will focus on outsider works of art and ideas in 20th century France and the post-colonial world. Like the Decadents and Symbolists, modernist artists go in quest of a pure artistic language "in which mute things speak to me," as Hofmannsthal wrote, beyond concepts and representation, privileging passion over reason. This quest is influenced by worldviews and works from the broader French-speaking world, which refocuses art on its ritual origins, and on its magical potential. "Art", in the words of Martinican poet and playwright Césaire, "is a miraculous weapon."

In fall and winter, we will study aesthetic theories and works from Primitivism and Surrealism to Absurdist Drama, Haitian Marvelous and Oulipo; and writers such as Mallarmé, Jabès, Artaud, Beckett, Blanchot, Derrida, Sartre, Irigaray and Foucault. We will look at historical and cultural change from WWI through the student riots of 1968 and the multi-cultural French-speaking world of today.

Key themes will include: memory and the way in which it shapes, and is shaped by, identity; concepts of time and place; and the challenges and opportunities for French identity brought by immigration. We will focus on French social, cultural and intellectual history from the 1930's to the present, exploring the myths and realities of French Resistance and the Vichy Regime during World War II; the legacy of revolutionary concepts of "universal" liberty, equality and fraternity as France re-envisioned its role in Europe and the world from the 1950s to the present, including uprisings from 1968 through today; and the impact of the Franco-Algerian war on contemporary France and the post-colonial Francophone world.

In spring, students have two options. They can travel to France, where they will participate in intensive language study, perform cultural and art historical fieldwork, and pursue personal research on a "quest" of their own. Alternatively, students may remain on campus to undertake a major personal project, springing from ideas, writers and artists in prior quarters. This is an excellent opportunity to complete a substantive body of creative or research oriented work, with guidance from faculty and peer critique.

Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Study Abroad
Approximately $7,900 for nine-week study abroad in France in the spring.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
February 21st, 2012 Signature required for entry spring quarter.
November 17th, 2011 Winter enrollment information updated; no signature needed, but please consult with faculty or program web site regarding reading assignments to be completed over winter break.
June 1st, 2011 The prerequisite for this program has been removed; no french language is required.
May 2nd, 2011 Fees for study abroad have been reduced.