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FR6: Innovation and Upheaval: deformation and reformulation in the 20th and 21st centuries

This paper will allow students to explore key developments in literature, thought, and visual culture from the French-speaking world from the perspectives of innovation, upheaval and renewal. It will take as its central concern the rupture, transformation and reformulation of aesthetic and cultural forms.

Questions of historical and social transformation or renewal will be addressed through the motifs of modernity, the avant-garde, and technological innovation. They will also be addressed with regard to literary and theoretical responses to colonialism, decolonization, and the post-colonial. Questions of aesthetic representation or form, its rupture, deformation and reformulation will also be addressed in relation to successive waves of avant-gardist cultural production (in literature, visual culture and theoretical writing). The search for new modes of representational form in response to avant-garde models of rupture and innovation will also be explored.

Throughout the paper the issue of representation and its critique will be central as will be the philosophical, ethical, and political implications of such a critique. Students will further develop analytical skills relating to the historical-cultural contextualization of aesthetic practices as well as theoretical and critical approaches to such practices.

A revised version of paper FR6 will run from 2022-23: see here for details (PDF download, 1Mb).

  1. ApollinaireAlcoolsCalligrammes
  2. Surrealism: Breton, Manifestes du surréalismeNadja; Éluard, Capitale de la douleur; Desnos, Corps et biens; Bunuel and Dali, Un Chien Andalou.
  3. BeckettEn attendant GodotFin de partieOh les beaux joursLa Dernière bandeL'Innommable
  4. CésaireCahier d'un retour au pays natalDiscours sur le colonialismeLa Tragédie du roi Christophe
  5. Le Nouveau Roman: Sarraute, L'Ère du soupçonLes Fruits d'orLe Planétarium; Robbe-Grillet, Pour un nouveau romanLa JalousieLes Gommes
  6. La Nouvelle Vague: Godard, À bout de souffleLe Mépris; Truffaut, Les quatre cents coupsJules et Jim; Varda, La Pointe Courte.
  7. Retours du récit: Ernaux, La PlaceUne Femme; Angot, Sujet Angot; Houellebecq, Les Particules élémentaires>
  8. Francophone reformulations: Djebar, Les Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement; Ben Jelloun, L'Enfant de sable; Chamoiseau, Solibo magnifique
Preparatory reading: 

For introductory and preparatory reading, please see Sections A & B of the full reading list for the paper (see link in next section).

Full reading list

Please see the full reading list for Fr.6 here.


Teaching and learning: 

The paper is taught through a combination of lectures and college based supervisions. The lecture course provides the core provision around which students may orientate themselves in relation to the material covered. A programme of supervisions, agreed with the student’s supervisor, is tailored to give specific pathways across the topic which may reflect individual interests and strengths (e.g. fiction, visual culture etc.)

For the Fr.6 Moodle site, please see here.


The paper is assessed by one three-hour examination.

Students may also opt to be assessed by the submission of essays.

Course Contacts: 
Prof Martin Crowley