France in Ruins: Wounded Spaces From 1945 to the Present

Ruins have been at the center of the French imaginary since the sixteenth century. They represented in turn the decay of the pagan world, its architectural genius, the height of the sublime, and a refuge for earthly pleasures or the inquisitive mind. The twentieth century, with its landscapes of broken metropolises and scorched earth, changed the literary reading of this spatial motif in radical ways, making it more malleable and more ambiguous. It has been evolving from 1945 to the present, taking unique shapes in the literature we will be studying this semester, starting with the rotting landscapes of Julien Gracq and Pierre Michon, and moving towards the industrial territories of François Bon and Élisabeth Filhol.

This seminar will allow the students to become familiar with a poetic approach to literary texts, while also remaining open to the theoretical perspectives that they will be bringing forward through class discussions and oral presentations. Our seminar will also include a substantial component dedicated to the visual history of ruins in European architecture, painting, photography, and film.

Required readings:

Julien Gracq, Un balcon en forêt

Pierre Michon, La Grande Beune

Patrick Modiano,  Pedigree

François Bon, Paysage fer

Philippe Vasset, Un livre blanc

Élisabeth Filhol, La Centrale

Céline Minard, Le Dernier monde

Theory readings will include works by Bertrand Westphal, Michel Collot, Marielle Macé, and others.

Language of instruction: French

Professor: Vincent Gélinas-Lemaire

Course Registration