French 120B: Twentieth-Century Literature – Wars, Revolts, Literatures. “Minuit” in the 20th Century
Vercors, Le silence de la mer (1942)
Samuel Beckett, En attendant Godot (1952)
Henri Alleg, La question (1958)
Alain Robbe-Grillet, Pour un nouveau roman (1963)
Monique Wittig, Les guerillĂšres (1969)
Robert Linhart, LâĂ©tabli (1978)
Jean-Philippe Toussaint, La salle de bain (1985)
Antoine Volodine, Le nom des singes (1994)
Marie NDiaye, Papa doit manger (2003)
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) by some of the most important French writers of the 20th and 21st century, watch a few film excerpts, and bring these novels and films into dialogue with the main artistic movements and political conflicts that have shaped the second part of the century, in particular WW2 and its aftermaths, the Algerian War and May â68.
We will mainly focus on writers published by Les Ăditions de Minuit, between the 1940s and 2012, using this famous publishing house as a guide through the history of the 20th century. We will start when âMinuitâ was clandestinely founded, in 1941, in the midst of the Resistance. We will read the first novel Minuit ever published (Vercorsâs Le silence de la mer, later adapted for film by Melville), and follow the publishing house through its golden ageâthe 1950s, when its director JĂ©rĂŽme Lindon started publishing Beckettâs âabsurdist theaterâ and the ânouveaux romanciersâ (Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute, Duras). We will then move to the 1960s and the 1970sâa time of social transformations in France and for Minuitâand read novels and âdocumentsâ that directly engaged with the political events and issues of their time, such as torture during the Algerian war (Alleg), the Mouvement de LibĂ©ration des Femmes (Wittig) and radical leftist militanism (Linhart).
We will end with contemporary novels and plays written by the most recent generation of âMinuit authorsâ and writers who at some point transited through by Minuit (Echenoz, Toussaint, Volodine, NDiaye) and consider what becomes of formal innovation, anti-imperialist struggles and political writing when wars, revolutions and vanguard movements have seemingly disappeared altogether from the French contemporary landscape.
French 102 or consent of Instructor.
This course satisfies 1 âLiterature/Genreâ or 1 âElectiveâ course requirement in the French major. Satisfies College of Letters and Science breadth in Arts and Literature; Priority enrollment for declared French majors.