French and Italian | Reading and Expression in French
F300 | 11553 | Valazza, Nicolas


From an etymological perspective, the word ‘revolution’ defines an
astronomic phenomenon in which a celestial body moves round in a
circular course, or the time in which such a body completes a full
circuit. Revolution is therefore originally meant to describe a cyclic
movement in which everything is supposed to return to its place. But
soon this concept came to describe, paradoxically, a major, sudden and
violent alteration in the order of things, designating for instance
the upheavals of political regimes, as we see in the case of the
French Revolution, the Revolution “par excellence.” Given the polysemy
of the word, writers across the centuries have been fascinated by the
concept of ‘revolution’, making the most of its multiple meanings in
their works, and sometimes providing it with new meanings.

In this course, we will read several texts belonging to different
centuries and literary genres (essay, fiction, theatre and poetry) in
which the topic of the revolution, whether in its astronomical or
political meaning (or both), is developed in various manners. Works
studied include: the 17th-century novel Voyage dans la lune by Cyrano
de Bergerac, the 18th-century short story Micromégas by Voltaire, the
play L’Île des esclaves by Marivaux, some excerpts of the essay on
L’Origine de l’inégalité parmi les hommes by Rousseau, the Déclaration
des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, a 19th-century selection of poems
by Hugo and Rimbaud and the 20th-century play Les Justes by Camus. We
will also watch two films set at the time of the French Revolution:
Danton by Wajda and L’Anglaise et le duc by Rohmer.

The final grade will be based on class preparation (notably a
bi-weekly response paper) and participation (20%), one composition
with revision (20%), a mid-term exam (20%), an oral presentation (20%)
and a final paper (20%). The course will be conducted entirely in French.