Global Opportunities

FRE4017 : From Surrealism to Street Art: Theories and Practices of the City (Inactive)

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


In keeping with the overall aims of the degrees offered in the SML, this module aims to build on skills gained at Stages 1 and 2, and to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of the role played by cultural production in the construction and experience of cities in the modern and contemporary French context. Through engagement with key theories and material practices, the module will provide students with an understanding of social, cultural and political debates on, and interventions in, cities from the early twentieth century to today. The module encourages students to reflect on the agency of various actors —architects, planners, artists and residents — in processes of urban construction, deconstruction and regeneration. It invites students to question the role of textual and visual practices in constructing and deconstructing the social, cultural and spatial landscape,how such practices invest the cityscape with cultural meaning, as well as potentially challenge economic and political models for its understanding.

The module aims therefore:
1 To provide an understanding of contemporary debates around the city and their historical context;
2 To encourage students to examine the constructed nature of urban environments, and to engage critically with the commonsense notion of ‘place’.
3 To enhance students’ theoretical knowledge of important theoretical debates in French urban thought, through, through examination of discourses and counter-discourses produced by urbanists, artists, architects and inhabitants.
4 To prepare students for postgraduate study by developing cross-disciplinary knowledge through the use of core themes that permit engagement with anthropological, ecological, historical, geo-political as well as cultural approaches to urban place.
5. To develop students disciplinary and linguistic expertise in French by engaging with a range of cultural media – from travel writing, fiction, visual culture and situational art forms — that promote linguistic knowledge in the areas of urbanism and regeneration, geopolitics, ethnography, visual cultural studies and environmentalism.

Outline Of Syllabus

In this module, students will explore how cities have been understood, designed, experienced and contested in French culture from the early twentieth century to today. They will engage with questions of urban design and power, community and public space, global, and everyday mobilities.

We will respond to these questions through encounters with a range of sources — from literature, travel writing, and architectural drawings to photography, painting, and street art. In lectures and seminars, students will deploy these literary and artistic practices — from Surrealism to Street Art — as springboards to consider how people co-exist within, remake, and re-create the cityscape, how they invest it with meaning, as well as potentially challenge normative or governmental ways of managing and producing urban places.

The opening sessions of the module, ‘Mapping’, considers how we might approach the modern city, major theoretical debates around what ‘the city’ is, and what it ought to be. The remainder of the module is organized into four two-week blocks which treat of 1) Surrealism 2) Situationism 3) Mobilities and Graff and Street Art. To explore the significance of these spatial and artistic practices, we will draw on a range of primary sources, including works from a selection of the following writers, architects, and visual artists: Le Corbusier (architect); Louis Aragon (poet/writer); Henri Lefebvre (urban philosopher); Georges Perec (writer); Joy Sorman (novelist); JR (photograffeur); Laurent Kronental (photographer); les féminicides (graffiti writers); and Lek & Sowat (graffiti writers).

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture220:3011:002x30min pre-recorded videos per week.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading112:0022:0011x2hr guided independent study sessions themed to that week’s lecture topic.
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities103:0030:00Key reading tasks with 5 questions each week.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:0010x2hr PIP seminars
Structured Guided LearningStructured non-synchronous discussion11:001:001 Student group discussion on essay writing and planning. Non-synchronous.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery12:002:00Synchronous online,1x2hr live chat on Zoom. Main queries will be summarised on canvas
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study831:0083:00Free’ reading on topics with peers. Student-led discussion. Other independent research and study.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk11:001:00Introductory recorded module talk. (40 mins). Activity: Familiarise yourself with module. Inc Q&A.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Module to provide students with in-depth knowledge of French urban cultures, applying interdisciplinary
methodologies. Module’s primary corpus is to meet Learning Outcomes (LO1–4) by enabling students to engage with
texts from fields including urban anthropology, architecture, planning & resistive manifestos, and to apply theories from here to urban cultural production such as buildings, urban literature, photography, posters, graffiti and street art.

Structured Guided Learning:
1)Lecture Materials:2 30-min ‘snap lectures’ per week to intro topic, provide key info and deliver 3 critical questions per video. Videos will provide students with intros to debates on urbanism in historical context. (LO 1&2;Skills Outcomes 5,7&8)
Student feedback proved that these online mini-lectures provided convenient and constructive learning tools for students.

2)Structured Research & Reading Activities;

Reading: Students read 1-2 article-length primary materials weekly. Accompanied by 5-8 guided questions to facilitate student engagement and encourage close reading (IKO 2;ISO 5,8&9)

Writing: To ensure reading is engaged, students write 200-word response to set material. Either to answer guiding questions or link text from one week to a text from another. Students write 6 responses to be submitted online via CANVAS to module leader in advance of scheduled small group session.ML provides individual feedback and draws on responses to develop student discussion in small group scheduled sessions. Written responses to be formative assignment for module (IKO 3&4;ISO 6–10)

3) Structured non-synchronous discussion: Students engage in 2 targeted non-synchronous online discussions (TW1 & TW12)

Students invited to ask questions and queries re Module Intro talk (40-min video) and share concerns re moving online etc. Discussion moderated by ML at scheduled time. B is in TW8;provides students with chance to raise queries about summative essay. Through set questions, students reflect on what makes good essay and how they can use what they have learnt from formative short weekly responses (IKO 2;ISO 6,10&11)

Small Group Teaching: Small group seminars delivered in 2-hr sessions to allow sustained discussion on topic for the week (IKO 1–4).First half-hr ensures critical engagement with filmed lecture and reading materials. Rest of time is discussion of students’ formative response to reading. Seminars allow space for students to share and develop ideas through peer-to-peer feedback.ML draws on critical insights raised by students to structure discussion. Seminars are student-led to facilitate active participation to:

-Develop critical and analytical skills, learn to construct coherent arguments and to use textual and visual evidence to support them, and testing these in supportive space of the small learning environment (ISO 6)
-Develop bibliographical and reflective, critical writing skills, and develop review skills to enable synthetic reflection on materials from which to construct coherent arguments (ISO 7,8&9)
-Teaching of theory alongside practices in urban culture develops students’ facility for cross-reference across
disciplines and open out the range of perspectives to be considered when studying cultural production (IKO 1–4)
Seminars require guided preparation and close reading of set texts/images. Formative weekly assignment is designed so students feel implicated in the discussion even if not present in person. Sessions enrich students’ critical and analytical skills through focused, individualized feedback, sharing of responses to texts, and testing rigour of arguments in supportive learning environment.

Guided Independent Study: Each week students engage in independent activities to support and enhance learning
experience. Assessment preparation is a significant portion of this study time. Discussion
board will be available to students on CANVAS to support learning.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation152M20A 15 minute presentation in French on a topic pre-approved by the module leader
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M80An essay in English responding to one of a set of questions provided. (3000 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2M6x200 word responses to set reading. Each week for 6 weeks, students will submit 1x200 word critical response to *see below
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Summative Assessment:

Essay in English of 2500 words (80%), in which students will be expected to apply theoretical models studied throughout the module to the study of cultural objects, and in doing so to demonstrate understanding of the socio-historical context of the object’s production, theorize its response to course themes as appropriate, and engage critically with relevant academic sources.

The students will choose from a set of essay questions that have been designed to test their ability to respond to key issues in French urban thought on the city (such as rationalism; everyday life; regeneration; memory; non-place; and marginalization), and to demonstrate how these issues are expressed in cultural practices. They are expected to demonstrate links between their own analysis of these cultural objects and the broader concepts discussed in lectures and fleshed out in small group sessions. Students will be expected to have acquired a good knowledge of relevant scholarly writing as well as of the cultural objects themselves.

This component of the assessment will be in English so as to allow students to leave aside any linguistic anxieties they might have around their level of French and to demonstrate their ability to communicate ideas and arguments fluently, and to develop the following skills: independent research, bibliographical work, planning and organizing, word-processing, footnoting and referencing.

Oral presentation (in French with visual aids (e.g. powerpoint and/or visual materials) (20%). Students must deliver a brief presentation (15 mins max) on a set piece of cultural production e.g. photograph, painting, street art, map, textual extract or building. The exercise is designed to test students’ oral presentation skills as well as their capacity to situate a cultural object in socio-historical context, to handle a variety of aesthetic and formal approaches to urban life through a detailed exploration of how the object responds to one or more of the themes covered in the course. They will be required to give feedback on each other’s’ presentations, and will also receive feedback from the module leader.

Formative Assessment:

In addition, there will be a formative assessment which entails the submission of a short, 200-word critical responses to set reading over the course of 6 weeks (TW2, TW3, TW4, TW5, TW6, TW7). Students will have to reflect on the purpose of the set reading, identify and review the core ideas of the text, highlight any notable features, and as weeks progress, link ideas across the set texts. The idea here is to encourage precise, focused engagement that will enhance student engagement with the materials as well encourage development of their critical reading and writing skills over the entire module. Students will be given weekly feedback and their writings used as a basis for small group discussion sessions, as well as to encourage comparative peer-to-peer feedback and discussion. This exercise will help develop the following skills: critical review, developing and communicating an argument, planning and organizing, meeting deadlines, developing independent thought in a guided way, teamwork, interpersonal communication, and problem solving.

* reading in advance of the small group session for that week.

Reading Lists