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French Thought After 1968

ENGL 294.401
crosslisted as: FREN 311, COML 309
MW 3:30-5:00 pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

In American academia, French thought after May ’68 is often referred to as “French Theory,” a heterogeneous corpus of philosophical and critical texts compacted into a set of poststructuralist premises, first introduced by and grew within humanities departments, then identified as a luxury by-product of the “literary” people. This course proposes to unpack the notion of “French Theory” and re-anchor it into its original social/historical background. We will read some of the most influential texts of its key figures, study how a post May 68 revolutionary energy is transformed into various innovative but also destabilizing ways of rethinking power relations, gender, language and subjectivity, and finally, consider in what capacities and limits these diverse critical approaches go beyond the simple label of “post-structuralism” and relate to our own epoch and personal experiences. The readings will be divided into four axes: 1. Philosophy of Desire (Lacan, Deleuze/Guattari); 2. Sexual Revolt and Body Politics (Foucault, Hocquenghem, Barthes); 3. Deconstruction and Its Impact on Feminism (Derrida, Cixous, Irigaray); 4. Consumer Society and Society of the Spectacle (Lipovetsky, Baudrillard, Debord). Several documentaries and feature films will be shown outside class time. Taught in English. Reading knowledge of French is welcome but not required.


Course requirements:


Attendance: 15%


In class participation and online discussion: 15%


1 short paper: 20%


1 midterm exam 25%


1 final paper: 25%




Required Books:


Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus (University of Minnesota Press, 1983)


Jacques Derrida, Spurs, Nietzsche’s Styles (The University of Chicago Press, 1978)


Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 (Vintage, 1990)


Guy Hocquenghem, Homosexual Desire (Duke University Press, 1978)


Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (Vintage, 2002)


Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings (Stanford University Press, 2001)


Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Black and Red, 2000)


Toril Moi, French Feminist Thought: A Reader (Blackwell, 1987)






Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (online)


Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment (Vintage, 1995)