French MSt/MPhil Programmes

There are three or more Special Subjects in each programme or period, taught in 6 seminar sessions of 1 ½ hrs. At least two of the Subjects will be available in each academic year (one taught in Michaelmas Term, the other in Hilary Term). Students doing the MSt take two Special Subjects in addition to a Methods of Criticism or Scholarship module, and they complete a dissertation.

Medieval Programme

Compulsory Seminar

There will be one compulsory Medieval French seminar (12 sessions over 3 terms). The series will offer 4 sessions discussing topics such as paleography, text editing, authorship, etc. and that will require some amount of preparation by the student (reading, exercises, etc.). The rest of the series will consist of papers given by a range of speakers: DPhil students and scholars from within Oxford, as well as invited speakers from other institutions, UK and abroad.

Special Subjects

These are the options available in 2017-18. Not all options will be available in all years, and some course content might change.

Roman de la Rose (HT)

The Rose is, perhaps, the single most important literary work of the French Middle Ages; we have scarcely begun to measure its fundamental importance for everything written in its wake in France, and beyond. This course will concentrate first on the Rose itself and address questions of ideology, philosophy, eroticism, and literary technique; it will also look at the repercussions of the Rose, and offer opportunities, among other things, for original research into the intertextualities of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
(Convenor: Prof. Swift)

Chrétien de Troyes (MT)

The twelfth-century French author Chrétien de Troyes was one of the most influential figures in Western literature as his romances on the legend of King Arthur created themes and characters that endured to this day (the chivalric quest, the love of Lancelot for Guenièvre, the Graal as a sacred object). The course will focus on issues such as Chrétien’s authorship, his art as storyteller, his handling of irony and ambiguity, his re-working of mythic themes and characters, etc. The course will also examine major themes underlying his texts (such as so-called courtly love, the representation of knighthood, the expression of moral standards, etc.).
(Convenor: Prof. Marnette)

Women and Medieval Literatures (HT)

Although most medieval texts were seemingly written by men and some of them with a fairly misogynistic bias, women were absolutely central to Medieval French Literature. The focus of this course will be twofold. In the first place, it will examine gender issues and women’s status in the work of French medieval women writers (such as Marie de France and Christine de Pisan). In the second place, it will envisage the place of women in male-authored texts, whether as characters, patrons or addressees of lyric poems.
(Convenor: Prof. Marnette)

Christine de Pisan ‘The First Lady of the Middle Ages’ (MT)

Critical interest in this late-medieval author developed alongside, and bolstered by, the growth of feminist literary criticism, privileging her as, above all, a woman writer. More recent attempts to assess Christine primarily as a writer, and especially as a rewriter of different traditions, have opened up new and interesting questions about authorship and self-editing, patronage, intertextualities, and genre. Following in this vein, the course will take a comparative approach to Christine’s work, bringing together different texts from across her œuvre, as well as situating her works in the context of other late-medieval writers.
(Convenor: Prof. Swift)

Anglo-Norman (HT)

Introduced into Britain through the invasion of 1066, the dialect of French conventionally known as Anglo-Norman flourished for four centuries alongside Latin and English — indeed, sometimes in the same manuscripts — as a language of literature, law, record, and administration. For many decades an area of interest for academics in the English-speaking world in particular, Insular French has in recent years emerged as a focal point for research activity as scholars increasingly recognise the vital role that it played in multilingual medieval Britain. The aim of this course is to introduce you to the diversity and richness of Anglo-Norman by studying a range of texts selected from various of the areas of literary activity — hagiography, historiography, romance, pious instruction, and more — in which writers of Insular French excelled
(Convenor: Prof. Burrows)

Early Modern Programme

Compulsory Seminars

Early Modern French Research Seminar: 4 sessions in each of Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity Terms with research papers given by scholars and research students from within Oxford as well as by invited speakers from other institutions.

Special Subjects

These are the options available in 2017-18. Not all options will be available in all years, and some course content might change.

Renaissance and Baroque (MT)

The culture of Early Modern France witnessed the renewal of ancient learning, cross-cultural dialogue, and intense formal experimentation in the vernacular; this was also a period of imperial expansion abroad and bitter confessional conflict at home. Imitation and discovery, exploration and encounter, utopia and dystopia, belief and unbelief are all themes central to an understanding of the literature, the visual, and the material culture of the time. This option will explore the different modalities of cultural change which go by the names Renaissance and Baroque. A series of seven seminars will introduce students to writers such as Rabelais, de Navarre, Du Bellay, Montaigne, Lery, Labé, Ronsard, D’Aubigne, Chassignet, Sponde… and to the different forms – travel narrative, nouvelle, conte, essai, treatise, polemical poem, sonnet sequence and epic – in which they explore the ways in which theirs is a culture in transition.
(Convenors: Prof. Williams)

Literature and Philosophy (Not offered in 2017-18)

The work of major writers of the early modern period in France occupies the interface between philosophy and literature in that it addresses the most important questions about the fabric of the world and the human condition by experimenting with the resources of literature. A series of seven seminars will introduce students to thinkers such as Montaigne, Pascal, Descartes, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau, encouraging them to explore the relations between their philosophical ideas and the literary genres – the essay, the pensée, the treatise, the letter, the encyclopedia – in which they communicate them.
(Convenors: Prof. Scholar)

Art of the Enlightenment: Image, Text, Object (Not offered in 2017-18)
This Special Subject offers MSt students a unique opportunity to work with the objects in one of the finest collection of eighteenth-century French art outside France: http://www.wallacecollection.org/ All topics will be approached by way of objects in the Wallace Colection, such as sales catalogues and illustrated books; paintings by Fragonard and Greuze; porcelain; snuff boxes; pistols and swords; furniture; chinoiserie. NB Since the course involves handling the objects in the collection, student numbers cannot exceed 8.The seminars will take place at the Wallace Collection in London, which is easily accessible on the X90 from the High Street, Oxford (alight at Baker Street + 5 minute walk).
(Convenors: Prof. Tunstall, Oxford and Dr Jacobsen, Wallace)

European Enlightenment Programme

Click here to read about the European Enlightenment Programme.

Modern Programme (1800-present)

Special Subjects

These are the options available in 2017-18. Not all options will be available in all years, and some course content might change.

Reality, Representation and Reflexivity in Nineteenth-Century Prose Writing (HT)

This course of seminars will be concerned with examples of prose writing by a wide range of authors (Chateaubriand, Constant, Balzac, Stendhal, Mérimée, Gautier, Sand, Nerval, Flaubert, Zola, Maupassant, Huysmans, Rachilde) and will focus on a number of interrelated theoretical and literary-historical issues concerning ‘schools’ (Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism), genres (the fictional memoir, the novel, the short story), relationships (fiction and history, fiction and science, literature and the other arts, prose and poetry), thematic preoccupations (the individual and society, the fantastic, etc.), and narrative techniques (narrative structures, narratorial point of view, imagery, tense usage, etc.). The aim will be to explore the many different ways in which prose writers of the nineteenth century represented the world of human experience and reflected in theory and practice on the means and the implications of their representations.
(Convenors: Dr Yee, Dr Counter)

Nineteenth-Century Poetry (MT)

The nineteenth century constituted a period of intense and innovative activity in the field of verse poetry, and this course of seminars will focus on selected works from a diverse group of poets, including Desbordes-Valmore, Lamartine, Musset, Vigny, Hugo, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Mallarmé. The century also witnessed the emergence of ‘prose poetry’, and during its last three decades in particular the time-honoured conventions of versification — together with the very distinction between poetry and prose — were subverted and overturned. The aim of this course will be to examine and debate, on the basis of close textual readings, the various ways in which poets sought to find a new language and new poetic structures with which to express an increasingly varied and disturbing spectrum of conscious and unconscious perceptions.
(Convenor: Prof. Whidden)

Twentieth-Century Thought (MT)

This option will explore some of the major movements and thinkers of the twentieth century in France. It will study these through a series of four topics, aimed to showcase a range of works and issues. The topics this year include ‘Intellectuals’, ‘Self and Other’, ‘Making Sense’ and ‘Becoming’, and they are conceived to give students a sense of the development of French thought across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Philosophers to be studied reach back to Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon, up to Jean-Luc Nancy and Catherine Malabou, covering in between many of the major thinkers of the late twentieth-century, such as Bataille, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, and Kristeva. Texts could be explored in their relation to literature or as free-standing philosophy, as appropriate and according to the student’s own interests.
(Convenors: Prof. Hiddleston, Prof. McLaughlin)

Francophone Literature (HT)

French Colonialism profoundly altered perceptions of national and cultural identity, while decolonization was one of the most momentous upheavals of the twentieth century. In this course you will explore the impact of France’s changing relationship with her colonies and ex-colonies, as envisioned by writers and intellectuals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Exoticist works by writers such as Segalen, Loti and Gide will be compared with postcolonial literatures emerging from Africa, North Africa and the Caribbean (possible authors for study include Djebar, Chraïbi, Chamoiseau, Condé, Sembene). Emphasis will be placed both on the interaction between literature and history, and on the aesthetic originality of the works themselves.
(Convenors: Dr Yee, Dr Morisi et al.)

Life-Writing (MT)

Through the pioneering theoretical work of Philippe Lejeune and others since the 1970s Autobiography has come to be regarded as a fully-fledged literary genre. The autobiographies of twentieth-century writers such as Gide, Leiris, Sartre, and Beauvoir stand beside those of Rousseau and Stendahl, while the innovative approaches of later writers, including Barthes, Perec, Sarraute, and Duras, took the genre in new directions. More recently, a range of literary practices focused on individual or collective life-histories, and exploring issues of gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, trauma, and social memory, have blurred the distinctions between autobiography, biography, the diary, and the récit intime, producing hybrid works that make ‘life-writing’ one of the most fascinating areas of recent literary production and critical enquiry. The seminars on this course will reflect the strength and diversity of life-writing in twentieth-century French literature.
(Convenors: Prof. Killeen and Prof. Maclachlan)

The Power of Literature: Representation, Perception and World-Making in Modern and Post-modern French Poetry (MT, HT)

This course of seminars will focus on the modern poetic tradition from Apollinaire and Cendrars, whose poetry reflected the impact of new technologies including aviation and cinema, to Portugal and Alferi, contemporary poets whose work reflects cyber culture and computer games. In between, we will look at Ponge’s focus on the world of objects, Michaux’s imaginary universes, Bonnefoy’s poetry of being and presence, and Jaccottet’s variations on landscape. A guiding theme will be the construction of textual worlds and the relation between language and reality. Close textual study of individual poems will feature throughout the course.
(Convenor: Dr Bourne-Taylor)

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