Elles: Solidarity, Desire and Conflict between Women
121A :  Literary Themes, Genres, Structures
Summer 2023
Class No: 14285
250 Dwinelle Hall
Will Burton
10:00 AM - 11:59 AM

N.B.: The syllabus is written in English to ensure your full comprehension, but the course will take place entirely in French.

The feminist and lesbian movements of the 1970s imagined a utopia of solidarity between all women. But by the 1980s, many activists across the French– and English-speaking world determined that the mainstream movements’ treatment of decolonisation, language, race, and sexuality was inadequate and they founded their own groups. For the former, feminism represented the common will of womankind. But for the latter, the intersections between womanhood and other political issues sapped the viability of any singular definition of “woman.” Both this utopian drive and critiques of it inspired innovative literary and cinematic depictions of women’s relationships to each other: in solidarity and conflict, in friendship and love, and across generations. In this course, we will study an international selection of such works and the urgent personal and political questions they raise. What do women owe one another? Where is the line between friendship and love? Is there a historical women’s and/or lesbian tradition? How does a heterosexual woman live a feminist life? Is lesbianism “the feminist solution”? How can white women and Black and Indigenous women work together? How to reconcile the demands of feminism and other ideologies (nationalism, socialism)?

Students must acquire a copy of the following books. Digitised copies will be made available by the library.

Condé, Maryse. Moi, Tituba sorcière... Noire de Salem. Collection Folio 1929. Paris: Mercure de France, 1986. 978-2-07-037929-3.

Fontaine, Naomi. Shuni: Ce que tu dois savoir, Julie. Collection Chronique. Montréal: Mémoire d’encrier, 2019. 978-2-89712-654-4.

Wittig, Monique. Virgile, non. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1985. 978-2-7073-1021-7.

The rest of the course materials (below) will be provided via Canvas or through the Libraries. We will also watch several films during the semester, which will be made available for streaming via the Library’s Lumière service.

Brossard, Nicole. Amantes. Collection Réelles. Montréal: Quinze, 1980.

Pool, Léa. Anne Trister, 1986.

Sciamma, Céline. Bande de filles. Strand Releasing Home Video, 2015.


Students must have either previously completed French 102 or its equivalent, or be concurrently enrolled in French 102. For additional placement information please see Placement Guidelines.