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FRE4016 : Contemporary Life Writing in French: Textual and Visual Experiment

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Shirley Jordan
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


In consonance with the overall aims of the degrees offered in the SML, the aims of this module are:

- to introduce students to key developments in twentieth- and twenty-first-century experimental life writing in French, including life writing that incorporates visual media
- to introduce students to key theoretical concepts, practices and definitions related to the field of contemporary life writing, including feminist perspectives, reader/writer relations, the everyday, and distinctions between ‘autobiography’, ‘life-writing’, ‘autofiction’, ‘photobiography’ and other evolving practices
- to equip students to analyse a range of landmark life writing experiments in French and understand these writings in their socio-historical context
- to encourage critical thinking about the problem of self-knowledge as articulated in life writing
- to provide the critical and conceptual tools needed for analysing photographs in the context of life writing

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will bring students to consider the challenges involved in life writing and will introduce them to a range of major practitioners producing experimental life writing in French. It will be structured around three key questions: how can the complexity of personal experience be explored in textual and visual form? What does experimental life writing tell us about the problem of self-knowledge? And what do we learn about socio-historical context from studying life writing? We will explore selected texts, photographs and photo-texts from the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries and examine a range of critical works that help us to make sense of them. In addition, students will become familiar with key concepts and theories in autobiography studies and will be equipped with the critical tools required to analyse text/image relations, especially concerning uses of the photograph in the context of life writing.
The module will typically cover the following broad topics drawing on a variety of examples of life writing and related theoretical and critical works:

- Autobiography, life writing and the problem of form

- Feminist approaches to writing lives and the specificity of women’s life writing in French

- The autobiographical pact: life writing and reader/writer relations

- Life writing in socio-historical context

- Memory and childhood experience

- Photography and self-knowledge

- How to analyse photography in life writing

Key texts to be studied in detail may change from year to year but will be selected from a corpus of major practitioners such as Georges Perec, Marguerite Duras, Roland Barthes, Claude Cahun, Annie Ernaux, Hervé Guibert, Camille Laurens and Marie NDiaye.

Shorter excerpts from a wide range of other life writings and from critical and theoretical works about life writing will be drawn upon in lectures to illustrate important trends and techniques.

This course will be taught and assessed in English. Students will be required to read primary and some secondary material in French.

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists