Fredrik Roennbaeck

Undergraduate Discipline


Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021


Advanced French: French Literature and the Myth of Monolingualism

Advanced , Small seminar—Spring

The history of France and of French literature has traditionally been written as the history of universality and monolingualism, beginning with the emergence of French as an international lingua franca during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. With the centralization of France, the French language staked its claim not only to dominance but to exclusivity to the detriment of smaller regional languages such as Occitan and Breton; and during the period of colonial expansion, the supposed universality of French language and thought played a significant role in the effort to justify violent conquest. Behind the myth of monolingualism, however, there has always existed a multilingual reality—which has increasingly made its presence known throughout the 20th century, both through decolonization and through the hegemony of English. From Mona Ozouf’s Brittany to Albert Camus’s and Assia Djebar’s Algeria and Aimé Césaire’s and Patrick Chamoiseau’s Martinique, this course will trace an outline of French as a literary language among many by examining the ambiguous role French has played as a symbol of both inclusion and exclusion, of both liberation and subjugation.