Demand the Impossible! France in the 1960s

R1B (Sections 3 and 4) :  English Composition through French Literature in Translation
Fall 2016
Class No: 15541, 31630
M. Koerner


Books to Purchase:

George Perec, Things: A Story of the Sixties

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle


Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Kristin Ross, May ’68 and Its Afterlives 


Grin Without A Cat (Chris Marker)

La Chinoise (Jean-Luc Godard)

Tout Va Bien (Jean-Luc Godard)

Course Description:

In this course we will study some of the turbulent events that occurred in France during the 1960s, including the massive student occupation of universities and the largest labor strike in French history in May ‘68. Situating these events in relation to their broader, international context in anti-colonial struggles, mass demonstrations against the wars in Algeria and Vietnam, as well as the emergence of postwar “consumer society” and what Guy Debord termed the “society of the spectacle”– this course offers students an overview of one of the most transformative decades of the twentieth century. In challenging traditional social norms and existing forms of authority and representation, young people across the globe began calling society into question. Through novels, philosophical texts, manifestos, films and poetry, this course investigates the legacies of these movements as well as the different historical narratives that have since come to frame these events.

In connection with our theme, this Reading and Composition course focuses on the critical analysis of texts, images, and sounds (literary works, historical documents, speeches and manifestos, as well as photographs, posters, film and music). Texts and films studied in this course may include: George Perec, Things: A Story of the Sixties; Mavis Gallant, The Events in May: Paris Notebooks Iⅈ Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle; Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth; Monique Wittig, Les Guérillères; Kristin Ross, May ’68 and Its Afterlives and the films of Jean-Luc Godard and Chris Marker.

In addition to gaining skills in literary and rhetorical analysis, students will strengthen their capacities to produce informed responses to materials encountered in class, formulate compelling research questions, and build persuasive arguments. Writing assignments emphasize drafting, revising, and responding to feedback. In addition to several in-class writing exercises, students should expect to write two short response essays (2-3 pages) as well as a final research paper (8-10 pages).

Additional information: 

French R1B fulfills the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement in the College of Letters and Science. Class conducted in ENGLISH.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes