Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module FREN3291: Sexual Dissidence In French Literature

Department: Modern Language and Cultures (French)

FREN3291: Sexual Dissidence In French Literature

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap Location Durham


  • French Language 2 (FREN2051) OR an equivalent qualification to the satisfaction of the Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.


  • Modern Languages, Combined Honours and all Joint and 'with' programmes: French Language 4 (FREN3041) or French Language 4 following Year Abroad (FREN3351). Other: see Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • Critically to analyse certain key representations of male and female homosexuality in nineteenth- and (mainly) twentieth-century French Literature. The corpus will be drawn from the following texts: Honore de Balzac, La Fille aux yeux d'or; extracts from Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal; J,-K. Huysmans, A rebours; Emile Zola, La Curee and Nana. Marcel Proust, extracts from A la recherche du temps perdu: Sodome et Gomorrhe, volumes 1 and 2 (1921-1922). Photocopies of the following pages from the 1987 Flammarion edition will be provided: (vol 1) 63-98; (vol2) 5-8; 68-69; 80-82; 118, 132-133, 162, 215-216, 249, 298. Andre Gide, Corydon (1924). Edition required: Gallimard (Folio). Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, Le Pur et l'impur (1932). Edition required: Hachette (Livre de Poche, 1971). Violette Leduc, Therese et Isabelle (1966), Edition required: Gallimard (Folio). Jocelyne Francois, Les Bonheurs (1970). Edition required: Mercure de France, 1982. Dominique Fernandez, La Gloire du paria (1987). Edition required ) Grasset.
  • To foster understanding of the various, non-literary discourses (religious, legal, medical, psychoanalytical) which have contributed to the social construction of homosexuality as Other, as dessenting from a norm, and which will, therefore, have had some influence on literary representations of homosexuality.


  • Whilst respecting the uniqueness of each text studies, this module also submits each text to interrogation from the following angles.
  • What portrait of the reader emerges - sympathetic/receptive/hostile?
  • Does the narrator seem to identify with or to distance himself/herself from his/her dissident charactors?
  • To what extent is homosexuality presented 'negatively' or 'postively', as pathological or healthy, as hereditary or as a free choice?
  • Does a coherent theorization of homosexuality subtend the narrative (or the argument, in the case of a non-narrative work such as Corydon) ? If so, what is its nature: Does it reflect or counter the prevailing (sometimes medically-or psychoanalytically-based) theories of its time?
  • Does the author's/ narrator's mediation of homeosexuality/sexual dissidence acquiesce in or subvert hegemonic views on sexuality within his/her historical context? In other words, is the text 'sexually dissident'?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students should have:
  • greater knowledge of the changing social and legal status of homosexuality throughout the twentieth century.
  • greater knowledge of evolution in the social construction(s) of homosexuality in the twentieth century.
  • a critical understanding of the links between sexual dissidence and social/ political/ ideological dissidence.
  • a critical sensitivity to the differential inscriptions of male homosexuality and lesbianism.
Subject-specific Skills:
Key Skills:
  • Skills in the active and critical reading of literary texts.
  • The ability to document and defend a point of view.
  • The ability to evaluate, compare, synthesize and present conflicting critical responses to literary texts.
  • Essay and commentary writing skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Weekly lectures will provide a contexualization of each author's socio-historico-discursive positioning.
  • Fortnightly seminars will enable students, through guided close reading of salient passages, to form their own view of each text's construction of what was sexually and ideologically dissident for its time and, inversely, what the sexual and ideological norms of the time were (these << times >> ranging from France in the early 1920s to France in the mid-1980s).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly 1 hour 21
Seminars 10 Fortnightly 1 hour 10
Preparation and Reading 169
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100% No
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1200 words 100% No
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1800 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:


Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University