Honors | Recent Women Writers in French
H203 | 6371 | Michael Berkvam


This course looks at writings by women authors who wrote in French
during the past sixty years. The format of the class is discussion
with some brief introductions but no formal lectures. Students read
novels and memoirs written by women in which the central issue is
the development of a female narrative voice. Other central questions
in this literature are gender and sexuality, love, family, mother-
daughter relations, coming of age as a "smart girl" and education,
to name but a few.

Since 1945, French literature has been dominated by women writers.
Beginning with Simone de Beauvoir in the 1940s (especially the
publication in 1949 of Le Deuxieme sexe [The Second Sex]), women
writers have explored a number of issues that had largely been
neglected in previous, male-dominated writing. These writers often
took bold positions and wrote a daring prose that blazed new paths
in French literature, all the while asking whether there was such a
thing as ecriture feminine [women's writing], whether the female
voice in literature is different from the male voice, and if so, how
and why? These and many more questions will be the topics of this
class.

The writers I have chosen come from several national, ethnic and
racial backgrounds. From France: Simone de Beauvoir, Violette Leduc,
Marguerite Duras, Marie Cardinal and Annie Ernaux; from Senegal:
Mariama Ba; from Algeria: Assia Djebar; from Guadeloupe: Maryse
Conde; from Quebec: Anne Hebert; and from Belgium: Jacqueline
Harpman. What often emerges from this literature is that, despite
these diverse backgrounds, the authors show a thematic and narrative
commonality. Students will also see the feature film by the French
New Wave director, Agnes Varda, titled Une Chante, l'autre pas [One
Sings, the Other Doesn't], that appeared in 1978, a feminist
manifesto on film.

Final grades will be based on student participation in class
discussions and on three papers written on topics generated by each
student.

The following list of books is the order in which they will be read
during the semester:

Beauvoir, Simone de. She Came to Stay. Norton, 1954 [first French
edition, 1943, L'Invitee]
Duras, Marguerite. The Lover. Harper Perennial, 1986 [first French
edition, 1984, L'Amant]
Leduc, Violette. La Batarde. Riverhead Books, 1997 [first French
edition, 1964]