French and Italian | Colloquium in French Studies—Tradition and Ideas
F450 | 28870 | Davis, Colin

Professor Colin Davis is visiting from the University of London,
Royal Holloway. His topic is The Second World War in French
Literature and Film.

The German invasion of France in 1940 provoked a national trauma
which is reflected and explored in the work of writers and
filmmakers. Despite the moral ambiguities of the period, in the
years immediately following the liberation little was done to
challenge the depiction of the Occupation as a time of united
resistance against the Nazi invaders. If collaboration was discussed
at all, it tended to be shown as the aberration of a tiny number of
unscrupulous individuals. The social upheavals of 1968 helped create
a climate for the thorough re-examination of France’s wartime past.
A generation of filmmakers and writers who were either not born at
the time of the war or too young to have been actively involved in
it began to unearth a much more ambiguous history. Collaboration was
revealed to be more widespread than official histories had cared to
acknowledge, and the moral dichotomy between evil collaborators and
noble resisters was shown to be a comforting simplification of
actual dilemmas. This course will examine some of the key films and
novels through which France’s wartime past was depicted and re-
evaluated. It will also look at how French writers and filmmakers
have dealt with the ethical and aesthetic problems of representing
the Holocaust.

Primary texts
Vercors, Le Silence de la mer
Modiano, La Ronde de nuit
Tournier, Le Roi des aulnes
Duras, La Douleur
Wiesel, La Nuit

Le Chagrin et la pitié (dir. Marcel Ophuls)
Lacombe Lucien (dir. Louis Malle)
Un héros très discret (dir. Jacques Audiard)
Nuit et brouillard (dir. Alain Resnais)
Shoah (dir. Claude Lanzmann)