French 322: Introduction to Literature of Modernity

In this course, we will explore “la modernité française” from many angles. The subtitle of the course is “crises d’identité,” because today French identity is very much in flux as it tries to redefine itself in the context of greater ethnic diversity and an increasingly globalized world. We will examine how contemporary French identity, and its crises, have been shaped by historical events and cultural production from the French Revolution to the 21st century.


Notably, we will talk about last year’s tragic terror attacks in Paris, examining copies of the controversial Charlie Hebdo newspaper, and reading the novel “Kiffe kiffe demain” by Faïza Guène, in which a teenager of arab descent recounts her experiences trying to fit in in French society. We will also read the novel “Dora Bruder” by Nobel Prize-winning author Patrick Modiano, and examine it in the context of World War II, during which France was occupied by Nazi Germany, its identity tested as never before.


We will also read a very recent novel by Philippe Vasset, “Journal intime d’une prédatrice,” which recounts the misadventures of venture capitalists trying to exploit the melting of the polar ice caps. We will read this novel while watching Agnès Varda’s documentary, “Les glaneurs et la glaneuse,” which is also a call to action in a world of dwindling natural resources.


Feel free to contact me if you have any questions: Joshua Armstrong,


Classes conducted in French. There are two (2) sections of French 322 currently scheduled for Fall 2016.