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French Literature in Translation

ENGL 286.920
instructor(s):
TR 12:30-3:10

Since the advent of the twentieth century, AMerican intellectuals, writers, and artists have looked to France as an alternative cultural landscape at once geographical, cultural, artistic, and personal in nature. Edith Wharton's, Henry James', Ernest Hemingway's travels to and literary representations of France marked, not only their own personal and artistic journeys but as well, a philosophical journey into the very meaning of "America," culture, nation, and civilisation.

African-American artists such as James Baldwin and Josephine Baker often exiled themselves in France, seeking freedom from racial oppression that would facilitate both personal and artistic production. RejectingAmerica's sexual and gendered division of society, writers Natalie Barney and Gertrude Stein reimagined and restructured their sexual and artistic identities in the seemingly libertarian domain of France.

After examining the modern era, we will turn to contemporary moments in which French culture continues to exert its influence upon the American and the American landscape. From John Travolta and Samuel Jackson's discussion of "le Big Mac" in _Pulp Fiction_ to the recent explosion of French style cafes and restaurants with outdoor tables; from Julia Child's importation of French cuisine into the typical American living room to the profusion of books about France appearing on the NY Times bestseller list, one can divine the continued American passion for "things French."

Finally, we will turn to some recent critical accounts of France's cultural influence upon America, in order to ponder how America's relationship to France has shifted in the wake of events such as the Nazi occupation of France and subsequent French resistance, the social upheavals in France of 1968, and the rise of right-wing French nationalist movements. Has America's romance with France list its "innocence?"

Works will include some or all of the following: Edith Wharton's _The Age of Innocence,_ Ernest Hemingway's _A Moveable Feast,_ James Baldwin's _Giovanni's Room,_ Gertrude Stein's _The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas,_ Alice Kaplan's _French Lessons,_ and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's _Dictee._