FREN 416 - French Interdisciplinary Studies
This category of courses is offered by faculty from the French and Francophone Studies department as well as from other departments and concentrations. Courses are taught in English and focus on topics relevant to the French and Francophone world, with a multidirectional dimension that accommodates approaches and contributions from other departments and concentrations.
Religions in Africa: Cultural Identity and Social Transformation (Last offered Fall 2013)
Religion is a major component of African cultural heritage, which is one reason why certain researchers estimate that the dichotomy between the sacred and the profane did not exist in ancient Africa. If it is true that traditional African religion, said to be natural, is tied up in African traditions, the incursion of other religions (Christianity and Islam) into Africa drove a reconsideration of certain African cultural practices. Despite efforts to “enculturate” religion, this contact remains a challenge to define the culture and identity of a people. Christianity and Islam define their values, their norms and have imposed them on African societies. Religions engage in development, but they also divide ethnic and national communities that were once unified. What is it that therefore defines an African cultural heritage? How do we define a national or ethnic identity that combines multiple religions with “alien features?” What role can traditional African religion play today in a modern and mutating society? Many African novels have depicted the relationships between Islam, Christianity and African cultural heritage. African theology too has marked the way for a dialogue between African cultures/ traditional religion and Christianity in particular. This course will organize itself around readings from both Francophone African literature and African theology as well as around some African films, including works by Cheikh Hamidou Kane, V.Y. Mudimbe, Sembene Ousmane, and Jean-Marc Ela.
Towards a Postcolonial Pacific: Contemporary Literature from Aotearoa/New Zealand, French Polynesia and Hawai’i
This course is a comparative introduction to postcolonial literature (and some film) from the Pacific region, in particular from the so-called “Polynesian Triangle.” The course examines recent works by major literary figures through a postcolonial prism, and focuses on literary representations of the political and social legacy of colonialism in these territories. For each country studied, we begin with a brief historical review of colonization in dialogue with a text written by a colonial visitor or settler. We then examine resistance to dominant colonialist discourse in the works of prominent contemporary “indigenous” authors, in dialogue with current political debates in each territory. Course themes include differing conceptions of race, ethnicity and indigeneity in each country, and their relation to the histories of British, French and U.S. imperialism in the Pacific; the rise of indigenous nationalist movements, and the question as to whether political independence defined in ethnic terms remains a feasible goal in an era of globalization; questions of language in a Pacific space still dominated by its colonial division into distinct “Anglonesian” and “Franconesian” spheres; and the island as a unit of political organization as opposed to alternative pan-Oceanic conceptions of inter-relation. Authors studied include Katherine Mansfield; Patricia Grace; Witi Ihimaera; Victor Segalen; Chantal Spitz; Célestine Vaite; Herman Melville;Mark Twian; Lee Cataluna; Lois-Ann Yamanaka.
Haiti: Culture, Human Rights, and Humanitarianism
The January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, that killed more than 250,000 people, brought a lot of attention to the country traditionally described as “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” This course aims to provide students interested in humanitarianism, human rights, the Caribbean, cultural studies, and French and Francophone Studies an introduction to Haiti and Haitian culture throughout its history, including pre-and post-earthquake culture. It also aims at providing a thoughtful critical frame to the extraordinary humanitarian situation after the earthquake and the responses it generated at the Haitian and international levels. Throughout the course, students will become more familiar with Haitian history, its rich cultural production, and the relevance of culture to human rights representations, abuses, and responses to abuses as well as its relevance to various humanitarian crises in Haiti, especially the post-earthquake daily situation. Students will also gain knowledge about Haitian society, local organizations working in human rights and humanitarianism, the geography of Human Rights, local IDP environment, and humanitarian distribution of resources, and they will acquire the critical tools necessary to understand, assess, and participate in the current debates about human rights and humanitarianism practices in Haiti (including issues related to health, gender, economic rights, education, and access to resources of any kind). This course will be taught in English. Students taking it for credit counting toward the French major or Minor will be able to read some of the material and conduct their research in French. Students interested in doing an internship with one of the many organizations in the Twin Cities linked with Haiti should speak to the instructor. Approved for use on the Human Rights and Humanitarianism concentration.
The Animal and the Human in the French Enlightenment
At stake in today’s debates over the relations between animals and humans lie fundamental questions concerning what it means to be human as well as our obligations to the animal world and to nature. Contemporary thinkers including Singer, Derrida, de Fontenay and Agamben have often sought to reconsider or even denounce the Enlightenment legacy on these questions, usually emblematized by René Descartes’ conception of “animal-machines.” Yet there is no single perspective on the relations between animals and humans in the period and, as today, the animal/human distinction lies at the center of controversial discussions in philosophy, literature and the natural and social sciences. Unlike today, however, when we usually consider animals in the context of animal rights and welfare issues, in pre-revolutionary France the animal/human distinction is perceived as having immediate implications for human moral and political values and prospects for social and political reform. The course will explore the moral and political significance attributed to the animal/human distinction in selected philosophical, literary and scientific texts exemplifying the principal strands of French Enlightenment discourse. Readings include Descartes, La Mettrie, Diderot, Rousseau, Condillac, and Buffon, as well as some contemporary theory. Course themes include reason and the passions, primitivism, sex, bestiality, justice, responsibility, cruelty, and punishment. (4 Credits)