Narratives of Social Crisis in Francophone Writing

Epic literature tells us about the birth of nations, war stories tell us about the lives of soldiers, historical novels represent people living through national events. But Francophone literatures also offer us another genre often overlooked: the narrative of social crisis shows us what happens when a whole community is suddenly confronted with life-altering conditions that no one had imagined a few weeks before their onset: great pandemics, the coming to power of a tyrant, a community decimated by the tidal wave of the slave-trade. How do we process a disaster that overwhelms our belief systems, our institutions and all our previous assumptions about our lives and the places we share with others? Yet such situations are not new to the history of peoples of the French-speaking world.

Based on three novels by French, Haitian and Cameroonian authors, we will work together as a class, through a series of participatory seminars, on several questions arising from narratives of social crisis : the historical context of such conditions in the Francophone world, the social conditions these narratives represent, the philosophical implications of the way that characters respond to these conditions individually and collectively, and the narrative strategies authors use to lead their readers to think about collective crisis.

Required readings:

Albert Camus, The Plague (1947)
René Dépestre, The Festival of the Greasy Pole (1979)
Léonora Miano, Saison of the Shadow (2013)

Recommended readings:

Key background readings will be made available through the Canvas site.

Second year standing or higher. 6 credits of English, or completion of the Arts Writing requirement, is recommended.

Language of Instruction: English

Not available for credit towards a Minor, Major or Honours program in French.
FREN 349 may be taken up to two times for a total of 6 credits with different content.

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