Liza Gabaston

Undergraduate Discipline

French

Graduate, École Normale Supérieure (rue d’Ulm), Paris. Agrégation in French Literature, Doctorate in French Literature, Paris-Sorbonne. Dissertation on “Body Language in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu” (Honoré Champion, 2011). Beyond Proust and the narrative representation of the body, interests include 19th- and early 20th-century literature, history and theory of the novel, and relationships between literature and the visual arts. SLC 2010–

Current undergraduate courses

Intermediate French III/Advanced French: Fictions of the Self: Writing in the First Person From Montaigne to Modiano

Year

As contemporary French fiction is often seen as overly centered on the “moi,” a thinly veiled account of the author’s personal obsessions—and as Patrick Modiano (winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for literature) was recently acknowledged for his unique blend of first-person memoir, fictionalized family narrative, and ruminative historical enquiry—this course will offer an opportunity to go back to the origins of what appears to be a uniquely French way of approaching fiction. While narratives in the English-speaking world are generally divided between fiction and nonfiction, this distinction is not as relevant in the French tradition, allowing for more blurry lines between truth and invention. Questioning this division will be the main purpose of this course, which will explore various forms of first-person writing across a spectrum ranging from traditional autobiography to first-person novels casting the author’s life in a fictional mold—what the French call “auto-fiction.” Starting with Montaigne, Rousseau, and Stendhal, we will move to more challenging first-person narratives, including works by Proust and Céline, and new forms of “auto-fiction” in postwar France with authors such as Nathalie Sarraute, Jean Genet, and Samuel Beckett. Beyond our main discussion on the frontiers between fiction and nonfiction and the fictionalization of the self that can be observed in autobiography, we will address the frontiers between autobiography and other forms of first-person writing such as memoirs, letters, and the journal. Students will read excerpts, as well as complete works (for shorter works only). The course will include a review of the finer points of French grammar based on the texts that will be read in class. Students will improve their writing skills through regular assignments. They will also develop tools for literary analysis and will be introduced to the French essay format.

Faculty

Previous courses

Advanced Beginning French: From Language to Literature

Year

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 will be divided into two parts: The first semester will be exclusively centered on the intense, fast-paced, and thorough revision of the fundamentals of French grammar; students will be encouraged to write multiple short essays and to participate in oral class activities and will be exposed to various kinds of documents in French (songs, movies, texts, etc.). The second semester of the course will continue this work on French language but will also introduce literature and literary discussions with a focus on 20th- and 21st-century France and Francophonie. 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 may be eligible to study in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year.

Faculty

Intermediate French I: Writing the Self: Autobiography, Memoir and “Auto-Fiction” from Rousseau to Ernaux, Section I

Year

This course will offer a systematic review of French grammar and is designed to strengthen and deepen students’ mastery of grammatical structures and vocabulary. Students will develop their analytical and creative writing skills in French through essays and rewrites. We will also be reading autobiographic works (excerpts only) by major French writers from the 1800s through the 2010s and will explore other forms of self-representation in French cinema, painting, and photography. We will discuss, among other topics, the borders between autobiography and memoir and between autobiography and fiction, and students will be invited to submit and discuss their own work (in the form of creative writing workshops). The Intermediate French I and II courses are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year.

Faculty

Intermediate III/Advanced French: Proust: A Reading Guide

Year

As scholars and Proust lovers will be celebrating the centennial of the publication of Du côté de chez Swann this fall (the first volume of À la recherche du temps perdu was published on November 14, 1913 by Grasset), this course will offer an exciting opportunity to discover (or rediscover) an author who is often considered, somewhat paradoxically, as both unapproachable and too canonical—a daunting “classic” whose prolixity and intricate prose have discouraged many who often haven’t even tried to read him. Our main purpose will be to challenge this misconception and lift these barriers, providing the tools that will help reveal a different Proust far from the cliché of the precious, overanalytical esthete; rather, an audacious and, at times, scandalous and incredibly funny writer who profoundly renewed the form of the novel and had a lasting impact on 20th- and 21st-century literature well beyond France’s borders. While reading extensive excerpts from Du côté de chez Swann, we will deepen our understanding of the context in which Proust was writing by exploring contemporary works of fiction (Gide and Radiguet, for example, but also Virginia Woolf and James Joyce), as well as theoretical texts on the novel and its “crisis” by writers such as Paul Valéry, André Breton, Nathalie Sarraute, and Samuel Beckett. Once called an author “between two centuries,” Proust will offer the perfect vantage point from which to understand the metamorphosis of the French novel between the early 1800s and the late 1990s. The course will include a review of the finer points of French grammar, based on the texts that will be read in class. Students will improve their writing skills through regular exercises and assignments. They will also develop tools for literary analysis and will be introduced to the French essay format.

Faculty