Jason Earle

AB, University of Chicago. MA, MPhil, PhD, Columbia University. Area of specialization: 20th-century French literature. Dissertation on secret societies and conspiracies in interwar French literature. Research interests include 19th- and 20th-century French literature and cultural history, literature and politics, history and theory of the novel, and the avant-garde. SLC, 2012–

Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021

French

Advanced French: French and Francophone Women Writers From Beauvoir to Slimani

Open , Joint seminar—Fall

This course is taught in English. An additional discussion session will be organized for advanced French students.

This course will focus on French and francophone women writers from 1945 to the present. Whereas women’s writing as conventionally considered in the first half of the 20th century is singularly identified with Colette, the postwar and postcolonial eras produced an explosion of artistic expression by women across a broad range of genres. In this course, we will concentrate primarily on fiction and memoir by women writing in French from locations such as Algeria, Guadeloupe, Senegal, and Quebec, as well as France. We will examine the various ways in which women under certain conditions exemplified aesthetic and social transgression by writing at all, foregrounding the rapport between orality and textuality. The writers studied will allow us to explore how sexual and racial politics figure in language itself, often through formal innovation and experimentation. A critical component of this course will consist of selections by feminist thinkers such as Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Monique Wittig, who interrogated the relationship between gender and genre/sex, writing and the (female) body, and language and (feminine) desire. Alongside readings, we will also screen several films by significant women filmmakers, such as Chantal Akerman, Claire Denis, Agnès Varda, and Céline Sciamma. Texts will be read in English translation; students of French will have the opportunity to read texts in the original; and we will analyze the correlation between the works’ translation history and their position in the global literary marketplace. Writers studied could include Mariama Bâ, Simone de Beauvoir, Nicole Brossard, Maryse Condé, Assia Djebar, Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Linda Lê, Lydie Salvayre, Nathalie Sarraute, and Leïla Slimani.

Faculty

Intermediate French II: The Writing of Everyday Life in French 20th-Century Literature

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Course conducted in French. Admission by placement test to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester or by completion of Intermediate French I (possibly Advanced Beginning for outstanding students).

This French course is designed for students who already have a strong understanding of the major aspects of French grammar and language but wish to develop their vocabulary and their grasp of more complex aspects of the language. Students are expected to be able to easily read more complex texts and to express themselves more abstractly. A major part of the course will be devoted to the study and discussion of literary texts in French. “Question your soupspoons.” In this challenge to his readers, Georges Perec summed up, in his unique manner, a particular strain of 20th-century French letters, one that seeks to turn literature’s attention away from the extraordinary, the scandalous, and the strange toward an examination of the ordinary makeup of everyday life. This course will examine some of the aesthetic and theoretical challenges that the representation of the quotidian entails. Does the everyday hide infinite depths of discovery, or does its value lie precisely in its superficiality? How do spaces influence our experience of everyday life? How can (and should) literature give voice to experiences and objects that normally appear undeserving of attention? How does one live one’s gender on an everyday basis? Can one ever escape from everyday life? We will review fundamentals of French grammar and speaking and develop tools for analysis through close readings of literary texts. Students will be encouraged to develop tools for the examination and representation of their own everyday lives in order to take up Perec’s call to interrogate the habitual. Readings will include texts by Proust, Breton, Aragon, Leiris, Perec, Queneau, Barthes, the Situationists, Ernaux, and Calle. The Intermediate I and II French courses are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year.

Faculty

Literature

French and Francophone Women Writers From Beauvoir to Slimani

Open , Joint seminar—Fall

This course is taught in English. An additional discussion session will be organized for advanced French students.

This course will focus on French and francophone women writers from 1945 to the present. Whereas women’s writing as conventionally considered in the first half of the 20th century is singularly identified with Colette, the postwar and postcolonial eras produced an explosion of artistic expression by women across a broad range of genres. In this course, we will concentrate primarily on fiction and memoir by women writing in French from locations such as Algeria, Guadeloupe, Senegal, and Quebec, as well as France. We will examine the various ways in which women under certain conditions exemplified aesthetic and social transgression by writing at all, foregrounding the rapport between orality and textuality. The writers studied will allow us to explore how sexual and racial politics figure in language itself, often through formal innovation and experimentation. A critical component of this course will consist of selections by feminist thinkers such as Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and Monique Wittig, who interrogated the relationship between gender and genre/sex, writing and the (female) body, and language and (feminine) desire. Alongside readings, we will also screen several films by significant women filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman, Claire Denis, Agnès Varda, and Céline Sciamma. Texts will be read in English translation; students of French will have the opportunity to read texts in the original; and we will analyze the correlation between the works’ translation history and their position in the global literary marketplace. Writers studied could include Mariama Bâ, Simone de Beauvoir, Nicole Brossard, Maryse Condé, Assia Djebar, Marguerite Duras, Annie Ernaux, Linda Lê, Lydie Salvayre, Nathalie Sarraute, and Leïla Slimani.

Faculty

The French Novel Since Camus

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course is taught in English, with readings in translation. Students who read French may read the works in the original and do conference projects in French.

The object of this course is to give students a critical overview of the major developments in the novel written in French since World War II. Our guiding question will be how and why certain writers and movements come to shape both the form of the novel and various notions of “Frenchness” itself. Our point of departure will be Albert Camus’s The Stranger, a work of stylistic innovation and philosophical exploration that continues to serve for many readers as perhaps the emblematic French novel of the 20th century. Our eventual endpoint will be a contemporary text written in French by an Algerian writer: Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation, which grapples with the legacy of Camus’s novel in postcolonial Algeria. In between those two bookends, we will explore a number of aesthetic, political, and philosophical questions crucial to the development of the postwar novel. How and why did authors continually seek to subvert traditional notions of plot, character, psychology, and genre? How did the traumas of World War II and France’s colonial past and present lead to a reconsideration of the relationship of fiction, history, and memory? How did the rise of consumer society affect the status of the novel and its attempts to represent everyday life? How did new voices for the novel emerge alongside political theories and practices? Finally, how might the novel provide us with different avenues for understanding contemporary French culture and society? Students will read works in their entirety in translation, alongside relevant theoretical texts. Additional authors to be studied could include Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, Georges Perec, Marguerite Yourcenar, Monique Wittig, Annie Ernaux, Maryse Condé, Patrick Modiano, Patrick Chamoiseau, Jean Echenoz, Marie NDiaye, and Michel Houellebecq.

Faculty

Previous Courses

Intermediate French III/Advanced French: The Fantastic, the Surreal, and the Eerie

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Fall

This course will be conducted in French.  Admission by placement test (to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester) or after completion of Intermediate II.

France is often thought of as a nation of reason, the intellectual birthplace of Descartes’s philosophical method and the Enlightenment project of the 18th-century philosophes. Yet there exists an equally strong tendency in French literature toward the shadows, the irrational, and the occult. This seminar will explore that underbelly of French thought by focusing on three different periods. First, we will trace how a strain of “romantisme noir”—characterized by dreams, hauntings, ruins, and vampires—emerged in the 19th century as a reaction to the turmoil of the French Revolution and Industrial Revolution. The genres of the fantastic and cruel tales will be studied in depth as crucial counterpoints to realist fiction. Second, our attention will turn to the early 20th century and the Surrealists, who transformed the exploration of dreams and the unconscious into a revolutionary artistic project. Here, students will read manifestos, poems, and narrative works that contested the reign of rationalism by seeking out the aesthetic and political potential of madness and desire. Finally, we will read works by contemporary French writers who have revived the fantastic tradition in order to better understand how and why a literature of the strange and irrational persists to this day. Authors to be studied could include Maupassant, Gautier, Balzac, Nerval, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Lautréamont, Breton, Aragon, Eluard, Ndiaye, Darrieussecq, and Echenoz. Secondary readings will be drawn from feminist criticism, psychoanalysis, and narrative theory. In this course, students will also review the finer points of French grammar, improve their writing skills through regular assignments, and develop tools for literary analysis and commentary.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

The Occupation and Its Aftermath in French Literature and Film

Open , Joint seminar—Spring

This course will explore the fraught relationship between representation and memory by focusing on French literature and film produced during and following World War II. After the fall of France in 1940, the country was divided into two parts: one half under German occupation; the other half ruled by a collaborationist regime headquartered in Vichy. Every aspect of life, including cultural and artistic production, was subject to authoritarian control. Means of political expression and dissemination came up against laws instituting surveillance, censorship, rationing, roundups, and deportations to internment and concentration camps. We will focus on the unique position of writers and filmmakers as witnesses to, and interpreters of, national humiliation, personal catastrophe, and collective shock. Artists, under both the occupation and the Vichy government, were forced to choose whether to speak out, join the resistance, collaborate, or keep silent. During the decades that followed liberation, writers proved integral to the (re)appraisals of France’s conduct during the war. The first half of this course will be devoted to texts and films produced from 1940-1945, while the second half will address postwar efforts to reconcile, contextualize, and, in some cases, justify a political and historical narrative that framed France as both heroic and resistant to Nazi oppression. Interspersed with primary texts and films will be secondary materials drawn from testimony, trauma theory, and memory studies. Texts will be read in English translation; students of French will have the opportunity to read texts in the original. Among the authors to be studied are Sartre, Duras, Beauvoir, Camus, Vercors, Némirovsky, Semprun, Céline, Modiano, Perec, and Salvayre. Filmmakers could include Truffaut, Malle, Lelouch, Melville, Chabrol, Carné, and Ophüls.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: Modern Myths of Paris

Open , FYS—Year

No knowledge of French is required for this course.

This course will explore the powerful hold that Paris exerted on literature in the 19th and 20th centuries, the period when the city became a world capital of artistic, intellectual, and political life. Our guiding focus will be on how writers use the geography of Paris—its streets, monuments, markets, and slums—to depict the complexities of modern life, posing the urban landscape as a place of revolution and banality, alienation and community, seduction and monstrosity. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which the representation of the city allowed writers to question the form and function of literature itself. We will begin with the 19th-century French novelists and poets who made Paris the site of epic literary struggles, including Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant, and Émile Zola. We will see how the city provided fertile ground for the aesthetic experimentations of 20th-century literature in works by Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Colette, and Georges Perec. Our study will explore writers who have recorded the often violent and traumatic history of modern Paris, such as Marguerite Duras, Leïla Sebbar, and Patrick Modiano. Finally, we will analyze how Paris is experienced as a cosmopolitan space in works about expatriates, immigrants, exiles, and travelers from authors as varied as Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, Alain Mabanckou, Faïza Guène, and Enrique Vila-Matas. Beyond our focus on close readings of literary texts, students will have the opportunity to read some historical and theoretical considerations of Paris. We will also watch several films where Paris features prominently. This class will alternate biweekly individual conferences with biweekly small group activities, including writing workshops, screenings, and field trips.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Intermediate French III/Advanced French: Paris, Literary Capital

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks, the French publishing world witnessed a surprising phenomenon: The translation of Ernest Hemingway’s 1964 memoir of Paris, A Moveable Feast, became a runaway bestseller. The remarkable resonance of Hemingway’s book in the wake of a national tragedy highlights the profound link between literature and the French capital. This course will explore that bond by analyzing how French and francophone writers have represented Paris from the late 18th century to the present day. We will draw from a variety of genres and traditions—realist novels, prose poems, avant-garde texts, and critical essays—in order to analyze the relationship between the spaces of the city and the form of literature. Our focus will be on the many faces of the capital: We will consider the Paris of revolution and daily life, of tradition and modernity, of community and isolation. Topics to be considered will include the literature of monuments; streets and the flâneur; wealth, capital, and urbanization; history and memory; peripheries, zones, and the banlieue; and Paris as symbol of the French nation. Authors to be studied may include Mercier, Hugo, Balzac, Baudelaire, Zola, Apollinaire, Breton, Beauvoir, Duras, Barthes, Perec, Ernaux, Guène, and Vasset. We will also watch several films where Paris features prominently. Students will review the finer points of French grammar, improve their writing skills through regular assignments, and develop tools for literary analysis and commentary.

Faculty
Related Disciplines