Courses available in French


Tout est dit, et l'on vient trop tard.

—La Bruyère

French 121B: Literary Themes, Genres, Structures – Short Forms and Very Short Forms


Selected Readings; see Description.

Course Description:

Increasingly writers are exploring short forms – sometimes Very short forms. There have been many inspirations for this: romantic esthetics of the fragment, the phenomenon of the post card, avant -garde contestations of conventional art practices and markets, 20th esthetic traditions of minimalism, an esthetics of the everyday, the impact of media such as photography, tv (channel surfing and interruption by ads) and especially the internet (twitter) as well as the generally precarious state of the world.

We will examine a range of short forms – prose poems, short stories, meditations, rĂ©cits and micro-rĂ©cits (“twitterature,” “nanotexts”) — to see what they accomplish and how they work.   To gain some historical perspective we will examine precursors from the classical and pre-romantic contexts before turning to modern works. Here we will emphasize the prose poem, Surrealist experiments in automatic writing, as well as  short form fictions and auto -biographical writing in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will consider critical reflections on the fragment ( Blanchot) and the haiku (Barthes) and we will end with contemporary experiments in blogging and “twitterature.” Themes that will particularly interest us as they pertain to modern short forms are: human- animal relations, photography and the everyday.

Readings will include works/selections by authors such as   Blaise Pascal (PensĂ©es) François de La Rochefoucauld (Maximes)   Jean de La Bruyère (Caractères) Jean-Jacques Rousseau (RĂŞveries) Charles Baudelaire (Spleen de Paris) Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (Contes cruels), AndrĂ© Breton (Les Champs magnĂ©tiques) Francis Ponge (Le Parti pris des choses) Nathalie Sarraute (L’Enfance)  Maurice Blanchot (L’Entretien Infini) Roland Barthes (L’Empire des Signes)  Eric Chevillard (Sans L’Orang-Outan; L’Autofictif) Silvia Baron Supervielle (Lettres Ă  des photographies) Jean-Phillipe Toussaint (L’Appareil Photo) Annie Ernaux (L’Usage de la photographie) Marie Darrieussecq (“Connaissance des Singes”) Emmanuel Hocquard (MĂ©ditations photographiques sur l’idĂ©e simple de nuditĂ©) and Patrick Moser (Le Chat qui vous ressemble) .


French 102 or consent of instructor.

Additional information:
This course satisfies one “Literature” or one “Elective” in the French major; satisfies one Historical Period requirement in French major.  Satisfies College of Letters and Science breadth in Arts and Literature.   Priority enrollment for declared French majors.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes