Paradise Lost or Apocalypse Now? -- French Utopian and Science Fiction

R1A (Section 1) :  English Composition through French Literature in Translation
Fall 2014
A. Gabel



FONTENELLE Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds (1686)
VERNE The Underground City, or The Black Indies (1877)
VILLIERS de L’ISLE ADAM Future Eve (1886)
IONESCO Rhinoceros (1959)
BOULLE Planet of the Apes (1963)
WITTIG Les guérillières (1969)
VONARBURG, In the Mothers’ land/The Maerlande Chronicles (1992)


MELIES A trip to the Moon (1902), The Eclipse: Courtship of the Sun and Moon (1907)
MARKER La Jetée (1962)
GODARD Alphaville (1965)
LALOUX Fantastic planet (1973) (adaptation of WUL, Oms by the Dozen (1957))
GILLIAM Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Additional readings will be made available on bspace

Course Description:

If you ask most people to think of French science fiction, most will stop short after blurting out, “Jules Verne.” As a genre, science fiction is often at that reprehensible no man’s ground
between mainstream and minor literatures: it is an overwhelmingly pervasive force in modern cultural production, but nevertheless, a somehow underappreciated and understudied literary field. It is often produced by overlooked or unknown authors, whose mere mention provokes a sneer of disgust in academic circles. And yet, science fiction and its sister field, utopianism, often envision alternate worlds or spaces in order to critique the way things are. From restrictive socio-political groupings to man’s sheer egotism, what the French call “SF” has all kinds of targets in its sights. And while science fiction can project new social possibilities in the form of utopian communities, in Amazonian societies and the like, it can also foresee our downfall-in-the-making, in urban decay and the double-edged sword of technological development. In this course, we will look at a wide array of French texts or films fall under these umbrella labels of “science fiction” and “utopianism.” We will situate these texts within the concerns of their particular historical context(s) and look at what kind of world they offer: paradise or apocalypse?

This course is designed to fulfill the first half of the Reading and Composition requirement. The primary goal of this course is to develop students’ reading and writing skills through a series of assignments that will provide them with the opportunity to formulate observations made in class discussions into coherent argumentative essays. Emphasis will be placed on the refinement of effective sentence, paragraph, and thesis formation, keeping in mind the notion of writing as a process. Other goals in this course are a familiarization with French literature and the specific questions that are relevant to this field. In addition, students will be introduced to different methods of literary and linguistic analysis in their nonliterary readings.


Additional information:

French R1A satisfies the first half of the Reading and Composition Requirement. Classes are conducted in ENGLISH.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes