Eric Leveau

on leave spring semester

Graduate of École Normale Supérieure, Fontenay-Saint Cloud, France. Agrégation in French Literature and Classics, Doctorate in French literature, Paris-Sorbonne. Special interest in early modern French literature, with emphasis on theories and poetics of theatre, comedy and satire, rhetoric, and the evolution of notions of writer and style during the period. SLC, 2003-2006; 2008–

Undergraduate Courses 2021-2022

French

Intermediate French I (Section I): Contemporary French and Francophone Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course will offer a systematic review of the most fundamental aspects of French grammar. The emphasis of the class will be on developing oral proficiency by working on specific grammatical structures and conjugations, as well as idiomatic expressions. We will also work on writing skills through in-class short essays and exercises with the primary goal of strengthening students’ grammatical agility. We will meet twice a week for two hours. We will use recent and contemporary French and francophone popular culture (songs, film, cartoons, fashion, etc.) as a gateway to explore underlying trends and tensions that have been at work in the francophone world since the 1960s. Some of the questions that we will discuss this semester include colonization and its aftermath in France and Belgium, as well as in several sub-Saharan African countries; the complex issue of race and slavery as part of France’s past in the Caribbean; the presence of Islam in France as a result of immigration from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; the history of feminism and gender; and the question of ecology and climate change. Each week will be organized around a song, a film, and a text that echo each other around a common theme. We will memorize lyrics and write and act dialogues, as well as short essays. This course will be an excellent preparation for the spring 2022 Intermediate I course, which will focus on reading and writing more elaborate texts. 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. 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.

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Intermediate French III: Soil, Nature, and Culture in Contemporary France

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course will explore the question of nature in France in the context of both climate change and the rich cultural and literary history of the country. Some of the themes that will allow us to better understand how the French relate to nature include the forêt de Brocéliande in medieval novels of the Arthurian stories cycle; discussions about the status of animals in 17th-century France; romantic depictions of nature in French novels, set both in France and America in the early 19th century; evocations of exotic islands, in contrast to Paris’s industrial revolution, in Baudelaire’s poetry; and Louis Ferdinand Céline’s account of life in French Congo in the 1920s. In parallel to this literary exploration, we will study how France is reacting to the threat of climate change, from legendary vineyards that must face rising temperatures, to new legislation that stirs the country into new practices, and to the work of NGOs that work to protect habitats in various parts of France. We will look at a mix of theoretical works by Foucault, Deleuze, and Irigaray, among others, as well as focus concretely on specific regions, local associations, and farms that are inventing a green future. 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.

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Literature

Studies in Ecocriticism: The Idea of Nature in the Western Tradition

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

As the capitalistic and predatory model aggressively promoted by the United States continues to reveal itself as a major threat to biodiversity and the environment in general, it is vital to understand the cultural and literary history of the concept of “nature” that is at the core of the Western and Judeo-Christian tradition while also putting that concept in the context of gender, race, and ethnicity in America today. For example, comparing stories of world creation from indigenous nations, with narratives taken from the Bible and from Greek and Roman classical texts, will allow us to better grasp how language in the European tradition functions as a deep divider between humans and other living creatures. We will also follow the development of the genre of the pastoral as an idealized construction of nature that deeply influenced Europe from third-century BC to 19th-century English and American Romanticism. We will try to better understand how the conception of wilderness in America is in close relation to the presence of enslaved black bodies on its land. Going in a different direction, we will analyze how contemporary feminism and gender studies provide crucially important models to invent new ways for the West to relate to nature. Animals will also be a focus of our discussions, from classical representations of animals as machines to the use of models like the burrow or territoriality imported from the animal realm by Deleuze and Guattari, to the possibility of shifting from a humanist understanding of nature inherited from European Renaissance, to new forms of ecocentric expression. These are some of the themes that we will cover in this lecture, with the goal of reading texts of the past in order to better understand the complexities of today’s discussions and debates about how to invent new forms of relating to the living environment around us.

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Previous Courses

Literature

First-Year Studies: What We Do With Words: Literature and Theory, 19th-21st Centuries

Open, FYS—Year

In this class, we will study major works of modern and contemporary Western literature in relation to theoretical and philosophical texts that helped shape the way we think today. We will try to better understand how writers felt compelled to invent new ways of speaking and how this fundamental change to how we relate to language also affected the way we think. At the same time, literary texts have become a crucial source of inspiration for philosophy and other disciplines such as linguistics and psychoanalysis. We will study this dialogue between creators and theorists, trying to better understand how they inspire and illuminate each others. Plato and Homer, Benjamin and Baudelaire, Heidegger and Hölderlin, Barthes and Balzac, Deleuze and Proust, Derrida and Poe, Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir are some examples of the dialogues that we will discuss. Other authors studied will include Walt Whitman, Gustave Flaubert, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, James Baldwin, and Tony Morrison. Over the course of the year, we will focus on the art of essay writing and acquire a better understanding of major literary and philosophical concepts in order to become more keen readers of all texts. Although the focus of this class is primarily on literature, our seminar discussions will also allow us to have conversations on important issues related to feminism and women studies, race, and gender.

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Literature in Translation: Roland Barthes and French Literature and Theory (1945–2018)

Open, Seminar—Spring

Roland Barthes was at the crossroads of all the literary and theoretical currents that defined post World War II France. His work thus constitutes an excellent introduction to the passionate debates that defined this period and will allow us to assess the role of French theory in today’s poststructuralist and postmodern world, both in France and in America. From Writing Degree Zero and S/Z to A Lover's Discourse and Camera Lucida, we will discuss a variety of issues related to linguistics, psychoanalysis, gender studies, and feminism but also the visual arts and theatre. We will study Barthes’ major works in dialog with philosophers and theorists such as Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, Sontag, and Butler while reading, at the same time, some of the literary masterpieces that kept inspiring him such as Racine, Sade, Balzac, Flaubert, Proust, and Brecht.

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Studies in Ecocriticism: The Idea of Nature in the Western Tradition

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

As the capitalistic and predatory model aggressively promoted by the United States continues to reveal itself as a major threat for biodiversity and the environment in general, it is vital to explore and understand the concept of “nature” at the core of the Western tradition and how it was shaped over the course of more than 2,000 years. This course will create a series of bridges between and among the history of literature, philosophy, and science, with implications for many other disciplines. Most importantly, we will discuss the Western and Judeo-Christian concept of nature in the context of race and ethnicity in America today by confronting it with works and arguments developed by black, indigenous, Latine, and Asian American authors. Among many themes, we will study how antiquity came to develop a concept of “physis,” so different from our modern understanding of physics, but also shaped our aesthetic eye with the creation of the pastoral genre and the idea of agreeable and tamed landscapes or set a model for a utilitarian relationship to nature with Hesiod and Vergil’s agricultural treaties. We will also analyze specific places, such as the forest in medieval chivalric romances and American “wilderness” fictions, or chaotic landscapes admired and imagined by the Romantics, or the sea as depicted in Melville’s Moby Dick. The 17th-century scientific revolution and its mathematical and mechanistic approach to nature will lead us to discuss with Descartes the concept of animality in parallel with contemporary philosophers such as Deleuze and Guattari, who make use of models like the burrow or territoriality imported from the animal realm. Going into a completely different direction, we will question the characteristics of a Judeo-Christian conception of the world, organized around a remote and immaterial god, in direct opposition to a more organic understanding of nature as a “motherly” and immanent figure with all of the reservations that such a figure implies. These are some of the questions that we will explore, and the focus of our discussions will be to bring new voices in order to deconstruct the Eurocentric concept of “nature.”

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Theory for Reading

Open, Large seminar—Fall

In this introductory class, we will deepen our understanding of how the acts of writing and reading have been understood in the Western tradition since antiquity and what they mean for us today. Each week, we will pair a piece of fiction or poetry with a philosophical or theoretical commentary. We will thus read Homer in the context of Plato and Aristotle’s understanding of poetry and fiction but with also in mind Nietzsche’s criticism of Platonism in The Birth of Tragedy. In the same spirit, Walter Benjamin’s use of Marxist theory will help us read E. A. Poe’s fiction and Baudelaire’s poetry in the context of mid-19th century Paris. We will also discuss Shakespeare’s Hamlet in light of its psychoanalytical readings by Freud and Lacan and analyze Kafka’s Metamorphosis alongside Deleuze and Guattari’s theorization of marginal forms of writing. Feminist and gender theory with Beauvoir and Butler, linguistics with Barthes, works by Foucault and Baldwin will also be discussed. Students will be encouraged to apply the material of this course to other texts of their choice. There are no conferences associated with this seminar, but students will have the option of developing a small personal research project.

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French

Beginning French

Open, Seminar—Year

This class is designed primarily for students who haven’t had any exposure to French and will allow them to develop an active command of the fundamentals of spoken and written French over the course of the year. In class and in group conferences, emphasis will be placed on activities relating to students’ daily lives and to French and francophone culture. The course will rely heavily on the the study of French songs, cinema, newspaper articles, poems, and short stories. During the spring semester, students will be able to conduct a small-scale project in French on a topic of their choice. There are no individual conference meetings for this level. The class meets three times a week, and a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant 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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Beginning French: Language and Culture

Open, Seminar—Year

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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Beginning French: Language, Culture, and Action

Open, Seminar—Year

This class is primarily designed for students who haven’t had any exposure to French. The course will allow them to develop an active command of the fundamentals of spoken and written French over the course of the year, using concrete situations of communication. In addition to the regular use of theatre in the classroom, we will explore French and francophone culture through the study of songs, cinema, newspaper articles, poems, and short stories. This class will meet three times a week; it will not include individual conference meetings, but 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.

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Intermediate French I (Section I): French Identities

Open, Seminar—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 also learn to begin to use linguistic concepts as tools for developing their analytic writing. More than other countries, France’s identity was shaped by centuries of what is now perceived by the French as a historically coherent past. In this course, we will explore the complexities of today’s French identity or, rather, identities, following the most contemporary controversies that have shaken French society in the past 20 years while, at the same time, exploring historical influences and cultural paradigms at play in these débats franco-français. Thus, in addition to newspapers, online resources, recent movies, and songs, we will also study masterpieces of the past in literature and in the arts. Topics discussed will include, among others, school and laïcité, cuisine and traditions, immigration and urban ghettos, women and feminism in France, France’s relation to nature and the environment, the heritage of French Enlightenment (les Lumières), devoir de mémoire, and the relation of France with dark episodes of its history (slavery, Régime de Vichy and Nazi occupation, Algerian war). Authors studied will include Marie de France, Montaigne, Voltaire, Hugo, Flaubert, Proust, Colette, Duras, Césaire, Djebar, Chamoiseau, and Bouraoui. 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.

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Intermediate French I: French Identities

Intermediate, Seminar—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 also learn to begin to use linguistic concepts as tools for developing their analytic writing. More than other countries, France’s identity was shaped by centuries of what is now perceived by the French as a historically coherent past. In this course, we will explore the complexities of today’s French identity—or, rather, identities—following the most contemporary controversies that have shaken French society in the past 20 years while, at the same time, exploring historical influences and cultural paradigms at play in these débats franco-français. Thus, in addition to newspapers, online resources, recent movies, and songs, we will also study masterpieces of the past in literature and in the arts. Topics discussed will include, among others, school and laïcité, cuisine and traditions, immigration and urban ghettos, women and feminism in France, France’s relation to nature and the environment, the heritage of French Enlightenment (les Lumières), devoir de mémoire, and the relation of France with dark episodes of its history (slavery, Régime de Vichy and Nazi occupation, Algerian war). Authors studied will include Marie de France, Montaigne, Voltaire, Hugo, Flaubert, Proust, Colette, Duras, Césaire, Djebar, Chamoiseau, Bouraoui. 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. This course is open to first-year students as a First-Year Studies course, as well as to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. For those first-year students, three to four years of French prior to college is expected, as well as a strong interest in going to Paris during junior year. There will be biweekly conferences in French and a mandatory additional weekly 1.5 hour class on “Theory for Reading Literature” during the fall semester. This additional weekly class will be optional for spring semester and will be entitled “Readings in Ecocriticism: The Idea of Nature in the Western Tradition.”

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Intermediate French II: Romanticism and Revolutions

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

Political but also aesthetic and literary revolutions will be the focus of this class, in which we will study how French literature and culture were dramatically transformed by the double earthquake that the 1789 political upheaval and the development of the Romantic movement represented. From the height of the Enlightenment in the 1750s to the establishment of the Third Republic in France in the 1870s, we will study a variety of themes such as: the question of war on religion (Voltaire), colonization and the other (Diderot), the birth of a new sensibility (Rousseau), the aftermath of 1789 and Napoleon (Balzac, Stendhal), and the challenges of industrialization and modernity (Baudelaire, Flaubert, Rimbaud). The Intermediate II 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.

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Intermediate III: Advanced French: French Women Writers and Molière in 17th-Century France

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Fall

This course will focus on all aspects of the strong influence that women exerted on literature and culture in France during the classical period of Louis XIV’s reign. We’ll study the historical and social implications of the phenomenon of the “salon,” perceived as a space of freedom for women to redefine the literary landscape of their time. We’ll look at how women writers challenged their male colleagues at the heart of their aesthetic and ideological dominance but also how intellectually independent women were, in return, perceived by society. We will thus read major subversive masterpieces written by women during the period while putting them in dialogue with a series of plays by Molière. France’s iconic playwright was, indeed, also one of the best readers of his time; and he put, in illuminating perspective, the struggles between women and men writers over the creation of a new literary canon. In addition to Molière’s response to the rise of a female and feminist literature during his time, we will also explore his complex relationship with French neoclassical theatre and tragedy; in particular, his positions regarding the most recent philosophical and religious controversies and, ultimately, the rise of Louis XIV to absolutist power. In such a rich context of past debates and literary works, we’ll also try to bring into our discussion the contribution of recent feminist theory in order to foster a dialogue across the centuries. Authors studied will include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Corneille, Mlle. de Scudery, Racine, Mme. de Villedieu, Mme. de Sevigne, La Rochefoucauld, Mme. de Lafayette, and Mme. d’Aulnoy.

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