This course introduces students to writing and film about and by gender-variant (transgender, intersex, or nonbinary) people in French and francophone cultures from the Middle Ages to the present.
Stories about gender variance and transgression have circulated in French and francophone cultures since the medieval period. Sometimes they have been the vehicle for philosophical and scientific debates (nature versus nurture, free will versus determination). In religious and spiritual contexts, they have been used as metaphors for human diversity or divine transcendence. They have also played symbolic roles in discourses of emancipation, from anticolonialism to feminism.
While we investigate these themes, we will also attend to issues of anachronism and power in these works. How can contemporary ideas and terms guide our recovery of LGBTTQI+ lives from history—or hinder it? What is at stake when apparently cisgender writers take non-cisgender people as their subject matter? How are their stories similar to or different from ones written by the "interested parties"?
Readings and films might include work by Balzac, the Chevalier/Mademoiselle d'Éon, Anne Garréta, Céline Sciamma, Xavier Dolan.
All readings in English; movies subtitled in English.
Image: Odilon Redon, Les yeux clos, 1890.