Museums and Elsewhere
Museums and Elsewhere; Collections, Exhibitions, and Public Space in French Film and Literature.
“It belongs in a museum!” – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, dir. Steven Spielberg
“I don’t like museums much,” wrote the French poet Paul Valéry in 1923, “There are some admirable ones, but none is delightful…a strange organized disorder spreads out before me. I am seized by a holy dread. My gait becomes religious. Soon I no longer know what I came to do in this waxen solitude, redolent of the temple and the salon, the cemetery and school…all this is inhuman.” Not every poet shares Valéry’s visceral reaction to the museum space; but he’s one of many modern authors who’ve had something to say about these institutions. This course will focus on the way museums and collections have been and continue to be represented in literary and cinematic texts throughout the twentieth century and the manners in which authors, filmmakers, and artists adopt or resist the ways how memories, histories, and aesthetic attachments get whirled up in the politics and socialites of museums. We read a variety of different authors (predominately French and Francophone) to approach the question of how the arrangement of objects (be the natural or cultural) within the interior museum spaces changes or challenges the ways authors relate to the world outside.
In addition to literary and film screenings, the course will take an introductory approach to research in Museum Studies, an interdisciplinary field of research that illuminates the historical, political and aesthetic problems posed by the rather modern practice of collecting objects in public and private institutions. Students should expect to engage with questions concerning the accessibility of museum collections, curatorial practices, and the troubling role European colonial history has had in the institutional history of the museum, modern and otherwise. These critical readings will be designed to give us of I sense of the overarching interdisciplinary conversations we can bring to bear on our primary readings.
Once we establish a suitable day and time, students should also be ready to attend three field trips in addition to regular class meetings. We shall visit BAM, the Lawrence Hall of Sciences, and the Berkeley Botanical Gardens.
A course reader will be available by the beginning of the semester and students should expect to purchase 3-4 books available at University Press Books on Bancroft Avenue. Authors and texts will included: Chris Marker’s Les Statues meurent aussi, Maguerite Duras & Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour, Georges Perec’s Ellis Island, Raymond Roussel’s Locus Solus, Proust, Colette, Varda. All reading, writing, and discussion will be done in English.
French R1B satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement. Classes are conducted in ENGLISH