Eric Leveau

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 2018-2019

French

Intermediate French I (Section I): French Identities

Open , Seminar—Year

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

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 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. It is not surprising, then, that the 15th-century figure of Jeanne d’Arc is today the symbol of the extreme right-wing party of Le Pen, which has gained a significant influence in France in the last 30 years. This phenomenon can be seen, in part, as a reaction to the changing face of France’s society, exemplified by the French “Black-Blanc-Beur” soccer team that Zidane led to victory in World Cup 1998. 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 religious neutrality; the repressed question of slavery in France; “cuisine” and tradition; immigration and the heritage of colonization, integration, and urban ghettos; women, French love, and the “Balance ton porc” movement; the 1789 revolutionary concept of citizen; etc. Authors studied will include Marie de France, Montaigne, Racine, Voltaire, Hugo, Flaubert, Proust, Colette, Duras, Césaire, Chamoiseau, and Bouraoui. 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 III: Advanced French: French Women Writers and Molière in 17th-Century France

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Fall

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

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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Literature

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

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course will be taught in English, with the possibility of conducting conferences in French or English.

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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Previous Courses

Beginning French: Language and Culture

Open , Seminar—Year

This course is conducted in French.

This class will allow students to develop an active command of the fundamentals of spoken and written French. In class and in group conferences, emphasis will be placed on activities relating to students’ daily lives and to French and francophone culture, using a variety of 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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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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Intermediate French II: Romanticism and Revolutions

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 completion of Intermediate I French. 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.

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

Open , FYS

In this class, we will study major works of modern and contemporary Western literature in order to better understand how writers felt compelled to invent new ways of speaking and fundamentally change how we all relate to language. During this same period, literary texts have become a crucial source of inspiration for philosophy—but also for other disciplines such as linguistics and psychoanalysis. We will study this dialog between creators and theorists, trying to better understand how they inspire and illuminate each other. Benjamin and Baudelaire, Heidegger and Hölderlin, Barthes and Balzac, Deleuze and Proust, Derrida and Poe are some examples of the dialogues that we will discuss. Other authors studied will include Gustave Flaubert, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, any Toni Morrison. Over the course of the year, we will focus heavily on the art of essay writing but also learn how to better express ourselves in public. We will acquire a better understanding of major literary and philosophical concepts in order to become more keen readers of all texts.

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