Course Meeting Times

Seminars: One session / week, 2.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course examines literary trends in France since 1990. It studies the impact of the dominant social, political, economic, and cultural events of the past 20 years on fiction and writing. Themes include the legacy of France’s colonial experience, the re-examination of its wartime past, memory and the Holocaust, the specter of AIDS, changing gender relationships, new families, the quest for personal identity, and immigration narratives.

The class is based on the close study of four main short novels: Annie Ernaux, Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit; Nina Bouraoui, Avant les hommes; Marc Vilrouge, Air conditionné; Jean Echenoz, Ravel.

Sessions will be divided between:

  • One-hour analysis of the main weekly reading, focusing closely to the text
  • One-hour debate on the weekly theme, including students’ presentations
  • One-hour for other activities: screenings, writing exercises, etc.


The course is taught in French—an advanced level of French is required.

Grading Policy

Final grade will be determined from four types of required exercises:

  • One grade will be based on one oral presentation (30%), individually or in groups (of no more than 2 students). The oral presentation will introduce the social or political issue associated with the main reading. It will be limited to 15 minutes maximum. Students will also have to speak to the class during their oral presentation (not to read a pre-written text).
  • One grade will be based on weekly short-answer papers (20%). It will consist of a half-page maximum analysis of the main reading.
  • One grade will be based on the writing of a short story (40%), comprised between 5 and 6 pages. Students are strongly encouraged to submit a 1-page outline before they start writing. The short story will be submitted two weeks before the end of classes.
  • One grade will be based on class participation (10%): the evaluation will be based on 1° attendance, 2° the demonstration that the students have done the weekly readings, 3° the quality (and not only the quantity) of their oral output.

Oral presentation 30
Weekly short-answer papers 20
Short story 40
In-class participation 10


No students will be accepted in class beyond week 2. Auditing is not permitted unless a direct link between the auditor’s research and / or professional project and the class is established.

The class has a maximum enrollment of 18 students. An advanced level of French, spoken and written, is required.

Using laptops, tablets, and cell phones is limited to searches related to the class.


1 Séance introductive I. Qu’est ce que la littérature?  
2 Séance introductive II. Une littérature qui tourne court. Due: oral presentation topic
Cycle 1. Générations: Annie Ernaux
3 Séance III. Transmettre : l’après 1989  
4 Séance IV. Une société malade  
5 Séance V. La mémoire et son devoir  
Cycle 2. Identitiés: Nina Bouraoui.
6 Séance VI. La famille réinventée  
7 Séance VII. La France post-coloniale Due: Novel outline
8 Séance VIII. La France post-sexuelle  
Cycle 3. Crises: Marc Vilrouge
9 Séance IX. Le monde du travail Due: Novel
10 Séance X. La crise économique  
11 Séance XI. L’individualisme  
12 Séance XII. Création Due: Short story
13 Séance XIII. Empires  
14 Séance XIV. Bilan et lecture des nouvelles Due: Final presentations