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 2017-2018

French

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.

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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.

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Previous Courses

Beginning French: Language and Culture

Open , Seminar—Year

Course conducted in French. There will be two sections offered: the first by Mr. Leaveau; the second by Mr. Earle.

An introduction to French using the multimedia “Débuts” system (textbook/two-part workbook/full-length movie, Le Chemin du retour), this class will allow students to develop an active command of the fundamentals of spoken and written French. In both class and group conferences, emphasis will be placed on activities relating to students’ daily lives and to French and francophone culture. The textbook integrates a French film with grammar study, exposing students to the spoken language from the very beginning of the course. Other materials may include French songs, cinema, newspaper articles, poems, and short stories. Group conferences replace individual conference meetings for this level, and a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant(e) is required. Attendance at the weekly French lunch table and French film screenings are both highly encouraged. Students who successfully complete a beginning- and an intermediate-level French course may be eligible to study in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year.

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Intermediate French III/Advanced French: From the Fantastic to the Surreal

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

France is often thought of 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. In the first semester of this course, we will trace how this romantisme noir developed in the 19th century as a reaction to the turmoil of the French and Industrial Revolutions. We will read texts on ruins, dreams, hauntings, and the dreaded mal du siècle from authors such as Chateaubriand, Hugo, and Musset. We will then read Balzac, Maupassant, and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam to see how the genres of the fantastic and cruel tales emerged as a counterpoint to realist fiction. We will also consider the figure of the cursed poet through Baudelaire and Lautréamont’s innovative poetry of debauchery and damnation. In the second semester, our attention will turn to the 20th century and the upheavals of modernity. We will focus on the Surrealist movement, seeing how these authors transformed the exploration of dreams and the unconscious into a revolutionary artistic project driven by madness and desire. Here, we will read manifestos, poems, and narratives by Breton, Aragon, and Soupault. In the concluding section of the course, we will see how a literature of the irrational persists in contemporary French and francophone writing. In this course, students will review the finer points of French grammar, improve their writing skills through regular assignments, and develop tools for literary analysis and commentary.

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Advanced Beginning French: From Language to Literature

Open , Seminar—Year

Course conducted in French. Admission by placement test to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester.

This course is designed for students who have studied some French in the past but wish to review the fundamentals of French language and grammar before venturing into the study of complex literary texts in French. The course has two objectives. First, students will pursue an intense, fast-paced, and thorough revision of the fundamentals of French grammar, composition, and conversation. Students will be encouraged to write multiple short essays and participate in oral class activities and will be exposed to various kinds of documents in French (songs, movies, paintings, etc.). Second, we will work on techniques of literary study and discussion in French. Our focus will be on short texts from the French and francophone worlds. We will read a selection of fables, tales, short stories, prose poems, journalistic essays, and one-act plays written in French. By the end of the year, students will be able to discuss these texts using basic tools and concepts in French. Conferences will be individual, allowing students to pursue their interests in any area of French and francophone literatures and cultures. In addition to conferences, a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant(e) is required. Attendance at the weekly French lunch table and French film screenings are both highly encouraged. Students who successfully complete a beginning- and an intermediate-level French course are eligible to study in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year.

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Styles of Paranoia: Conspiracies in Literature from Rousseau to DeLillo

Open , Seminar—Fall

Conspiracies and secret societies really do exist. Yet, in their classical narratives, conspiracies are not just mere plots but prime motors of history—diabolic agents intent on destroying the very fabric of the social order. This course will explore this move from reality to myth, from conspiracy to conspiracy theory, by analyzing the ways in which literature has represented secret plots. Our primary focus will be on French and American writers. Beginning with the paranoid father of French romanticism, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, we will see how the authorial self is often posed as a victim of a vast conspiracy. We will then turn to one of history’s golden ages of conspiracy, post-Revolutionary France, to trace how authors such as Balzac, Stendhal, Baudelaire, and Dumas depicted the figure of the secret society as both a shadowy source of paranoia and an alluring call to comradeship. Moving to the 20th century, we will see how the practice of literature itself came to be defined through conspiratorial discourses, focusing on French writers of modernism such as Proust, Gide, Nizan, and the surrealists. Finally, we will shift to another paranoid time and place, postwar America, in order to uncover how authors such as Pynchon, Didion, and DeLillo broke apart the narrative constructs of conspiracy theories. Throughout the course, we will supplement the study of literature with several key critical works on paranoia and conspiratorial thinking.

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Intermediate French III/Advanced: Situating Sartre

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

Course conducted in French.

“Hell is other people,” famously declares Garcin at the end of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, No Exit. Perhaps no other line from 20th-century French literature has been so often quoted, appropriated, and misread as this proclamation on the fundamental relationship between self and the other. The statement’s popularity has contributed to a received image of Sartre as the standard bearer of a literature of angst, an avatar of antisociability. Yet this popular vision is often at odds with Sartre’s position as the preeminent public intellectual of postwar France, an author who thrust himself into public life by actively engaging with authors, philosophers, and politicians alike. In attempting to understand this apparent tension, this course will proceed in two directions. First, we will study Sartre’s major works of theatre, prose, and philosophy in order to better understand some of the central components of his own thought and writing, such as absurdity, bad faith, nausea, and committed literature. Second, we will read Sartre’s work in conjunction with, and in opposition to, other writers, including Camus, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Sarraute, Beckett, Genet, Césaire, Fanon, Bataille, and Barthes. We will focus, in particular, on those writers about whom Sartre wrote in his literary criticism, essays, and biographies in order to place Sartre among the literary trends of his time. Throughout the course, we will pay close attention to the following subjects: existentialism, the absurd, allegory, politics and literature, the antinovel, feminism, anticolonialism and antiracism. In this course, students will review the finer points of French grammar, improve their writing skills through regular assignments, and develop tools for literary analysis and commentary.

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