Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module MELA40330: Personal and Public Identities in 20th Century French/Francophone Cultures

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA40330: Personal and Public Identities in 20th Century French/Francophone Cultures

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap


  • MELA53830,MELA40530


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module examines the different ways in which a range of 20th century writers use and experiment with narrative forms and strategies in order to explore the relationship between personal identity and issues of professional, sexual, intellectual, linguistic, political and/or national identity.


  • Students will be able either to choose between low possible strands in the module or to study a combination of both. The first will focus on representations of the self in autobiography and first-person narrative. Here we will look at how the individual may try to construct a coherent sense of identity from self-analysis and examine the different strategies writers use for both revealing and dissembling the self. Works studied might include 'real' autobiographies (by Gide, Sartre, Andr?? Gorz), Proust's fictional autobiography and Becketts late prose texts with their fragmented first-person narrators.
  • The second strand will start by analysing the links between feminist theory and practice by studying the case of Simone De Beauvoir, underlining her key role as a theorist and the ambiguity of her self portrait in her memoirs. We will then study a broader context of political commitment: the history and legacy of the Mouvement de la Liberation de la Femme.
  • Finally, a selection of seminal texts by contemporary women writers/theorists will be examined in order to highlight how 'traditional' concepts of gender and identity have been challenged, while writing has been rethought within (or without) the framework of 'ecriture feminine'.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will acquire a more detailed, more specific and more in-depth knowledge of issues relating to personal and public identity in modern France than in the core module and be able to apply and enhance the concepts and methodological strategies learnt in the core module to particluar corpus of works.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Having gained a broad understanding of the relationship between personal and public identity in 20th century French culture and studied major theoretical works on these questions, students will be capable of undertaking sophisticated detailed and specific analyses of a range of literary 'texts' and of demonstrating how they reflect, respond to and articulate this relationship.
Key Skills:

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

    • Both the formative and summative essays give students the opportunity to examine a specific topic in depth, and offer scope for detailed analysis of a range of literary and theoretical texts. In so doing, they also provide necessary training for the dissertation module. Seminar presentations will also give students assistance in preparing and presenting research type papers.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Tutorials 2 Monthly 0.5 1
    Seminars 6 3 Weekly / 3 Fortnightly 2.0 12
    Preparation and Reading 287
    Total 300

    Summative Assessment

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