University of Notre Dame

The Contemporary French Novel

Course Number: LLRO 13186-01
Instructor: Sonja Stojanovic

A few years ago, a BBC News article asked why French authors were not widely read abroad and attempted to come up with reasons for this (from the unappealing cover of the books to the possibility that French authors are too theoretical when people are just looking for a page-turner). Interviewed on this occasion, contemporary French writer Marie Darrieussecq noted: “Personally I am fed up with all the stereotypes … We’re not intellectual. We’re not obsessed with words. We write detective stories. We write suspense. We write romance. And it’s about time you started noticing.”

In this course we will read a few novels (in English translation) published during the past decade and spanning different genres. We will consider how these contemporary novels ask important questions regarding identity, gender, sexuality, race, ethics, history, and politics. We will also engage in close readings together, learn to analyze texts by using different approaches, and reflect on techniques that writers use to construct their stories. Assignments include short response papers, peer-reviewed critiques, a presentation, and a creative final project.

Novels studied include, among others: Marie Darrieussecq’s Hollywood-set Men; Julia Deck’s murder mystery Viviane; Maylis de Kerangal’s gripping tale of a heart transplant, The Heart, and Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano’s latest novel, So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood. Readings and class discussion will be in English, but students who have reading knowledge of French are welcome to read the novels in the original language.

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November 09 Majors Night