Challenging Perspectives: Conflict and Relations in French Culture

Module code: FR2042

Module co-ordinator: Dr Marion Krauthaker

This module focuses on the challenges posed to human relationships and interactions in times of conflict. We will not focus on history as such, but rather explore works of fiction and autofiction (two short stories and one film) and analyse how social and political tensions affect how people behave and are treated. For instance, does the context of a given time – such as war or invasion by enemy forces – affect people’s encounters and connections? Does the pressure of allegiance or hostility to the authorities in place force people into interactions or choices they wouldn’t have otherwise made? Does the public influence the private and vice versa?

We will examine the experiences of prostitute figures who sacrifice themselves to free their fellow citizens and their country; of a repressed French woman who tries to hides her secret feelings for the German solider occupying her home; and of innocent children who are brutally exposed to the cruel truth of war and the Nazi regime. Collaboration, resistance, moral order, and love will be key themes of study. We will also consider the notion of irony as the primary sources expose the apparently gallant as inherently cowardly, the outwardly virtuous as innately corrupt, and the otherwise fragile as unsung heroes. In different ways, these texts use a series of themes and representational techniques that defy our perceptions and confront social norms and stereotypes.

Set texts will include:

  • Guy de Maupassant, ‘Boule de Suif’ (Gallimard-Folio, 1995)
  • Vercors, ‘Le Silence de la mer’ (Livre de Poche, 1967)
  • Louis Malle, Au revoir, les enfants (Gallimard-Folio, 1995) [screenplay]

Assessment

  • One small-group seminar presentation (30%)
  • One essay (2,000-2,500 words) (70%)