Courses available in French



— Baudelaire

French 120B: Twentieth-Century Literature –Wars, Revolts, Literatures. Midnight in the 20th Century

Readings:  See Description

Course Description:

This course will explore the relationships between aesthetic innovations and political writing from the 1940s onwards. Throughout the course of the semester, we will read literary works (novels, narratives, theater plays), watch a few films (by Melville, Godard, Pontecorvo), and bring them to dialogue, when necessary, with the main political conflicts that have shaped the second part of the century, in particular WW2 and its aftermaths, the Algerian War and May ‘68.

We’ll mainly focus on writers published by Les Éditions de Minuit, between the 1940s and 2012, using this famous publishing house as a guide through 20th century French literary history. We’ll start when “Minuit” was clandestinely founded, in 1941, in the midst of the Resistance. We’ll read the first novel they published (Le silence de la mer, by Vercors, later adapted for film by Melville), and follow them through the 1950s when they started publishing Beckett and the “nouveaux romanciers” (Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute, Duras). We will then move to the 1960s and the 1970s, reading novels and “documents” that directly engaged with the political events and issues of their time, such as torture during the Algerian war (Alleg), the Mouvement de Libération des Femmes (Wittig) and radical left militantism (Linhart).

We’ll end by reading a few contemporary novels and plays written by the most recent generations of “Minuit authors” (Koltès, Toussaint, Volodine, NDiaye, Lindon) and consider what becomes of formal innovation and political writing when wars, revolutions and vanguard movements have seemingly disappeared altogether from the French contemporary landscape.


French 102 or consent of Instructor.

Additional Information:

This course satisfies 1 French Major course requirement in the “Literature” (112-120) category or 1 French Major course requirement in the Elective category. 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