NYU in France, Fall 2010
Paris in French and Expatriate Literature
Tu/Th, 9-10:30 am
Instructor: Lauren Elkin
Email: LE19 at nyu.edu
This class primarily investigates representations of Paris in French and expatriate literature, from the mid-19th century to the present day. The governing image for this class is the flâneur, that quintessential Parisian figure whom Edmund White describes as an “aimless stroller who loses himself in the crowd, who has no destination and goes wherever caprice or curiosity directs his or her steps” (Le Flâneur, 16). Through the flâneur, we will bear witness to the transformation of the Parisian urban space, beginning with Haussmannization, continuing in the early 20th century and the First and Second World Wars, through to the revolts of 1968, and culminating in the present moment, breaking through the périphérique to look at writings on the banlieue and voices from the HLM.
We will examine and contrast the way these writers move through and respond to the city, comparing their levels of access and mobility, examining the narrative and textual strategies they adopt to write (or, in the case of Varda and Kassovitz, “write”) the city. This emphasis on movement and the modern city will allow us to look at different tropes and uses of the city, as amusement park, as machine, as Surrealist space, as gendered, classed, and racialized space: a space striated by intersecting power relations. We will also learn about different movements in literary history: aestheticism, Surrealism, Anglo-American Modernism and the Nouveau Roman, to name a few.
The class will require several writing assignments, a presentation, a midterm, and a final exam.