Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module MELA40530: Modern French/Francophone Cultures and Theory

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA40530: Modern French/Francophone Cultures and Theory

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None


  • MELA53830

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The principal aim of this module is to provide students with a solid theoretical foundation for further studies in the progamme. This required module will run in term I and will give students a basis on which they will be able to make an enlightened choice of a more specialised direction to their studies in an optional module to follow in term II and in their dissertation in term III.


  • The module will consist of a (mainly) theoretical introduction to the three parameters of the programme requiring the study of one or two theoretical texts in each of the three sections and an appropriate number of short literary texts, films and other visual material to illustrate the concepts under discussion. This module will also bring out the meaningful complementarity in the three strands which form the basis of the programme: poetics, politics, and identity. Two seminars will be devoted to each strand. Topics and theorists covered in the core module will include:
  • Poetics: literature and the visual arts as representation, with an introduction to certain key narratological concepts and terms and an examination of the theoretical basis of anti-representational aesthetics in the 20th-century in, for instance, surrealist literature and art, the nouveau roman (works by Barthes, Genette, Ricardou).
  • Politics: theories of literature as praxis, dealing with problems of 'commitment', propaganda, and the relationship between literature and history/ideology (e.g. Sartre's rethinking of the role of the intellectual and committed writer in the specific context of post-war France; Barthes' explorations of the links between discourse, writing and ideology; Julien Benda for the earlier period).
  • Identity: An introduction to theories of the self and autobiography, feminism and gender issues, psychoanalysis and problems of national identity. Texts will be chosen from the works of Philippe Lejeune, Simone de Beaunoir, Luce Irigaray, Lacan, Derrida.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will acquire both a general knowledge of the historical development of aesthetic trends in modern France and study the basic concepts and theories that will underpin further and more specialised study in subsequent phases of the programme.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to formulate complex arguments about and contextualise the ideas and practices of the relevant theorists of the period and make intelligent use of critical material.
Key Skills:

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

    • A combination of seminars and tutorial teaching will allow students to apply and test the results of a rigorous programme of reading and discuss the issues that arise in the seminars on the basis of a critical examination of significant theoretical texts and of a small corpus of works (literary and visual) chosen to illustrate the problematics under discussion. A formative essay will give students the opportunity to practice and develop the essay writing skills that are required for the summative essay, They will be given individual feedback on the formative essay and class presentations.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Tutorials 2 Monthly 0.5 1
    Seminars 6 3 Weekly / 3 Fortnightly 2 12
    Preparation & Reading Time 287
    Total 300

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Essay 5000 word 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    One 2000 word essay

    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