Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Modern Sexualities

Module Code: FR309
Module Name: Modern Sexualities
Module Coordinator: Dr Oliver Davis
Term 1 Tuesdays 09.00-11.00 in H0.64
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

In this module we analyse and discuss a selection of French literary texts which attempt to come to terms with different aspects of sex, sexuality and gender identity in the modern world. We begin the term with an introductory session which outlines some of the key social, cultural and historical context and introduces some key terminology and concepts by leading feminist thinkers, cultural critics and queer theorists.

  • The first core text we read is Mathieu Lindon's retrospective account of the time he spent in the late 1970s and early 80s in the lively entourage of French philosopher and 'grandfather' of queer theory, Michel Foucault. Lindon's book is simultaneously a reflection on his difficult relationship, as a gay man, with his own father, the celebrated publisher Jérôme Lindon, and a reflection on what one could call queer kinship, in which 'recreational' drug (ab)use figures prominently.
  • Our second text, by queer activist, pornographer and performer Wendy Delorme is a fast-paced, witty and poignant narrative of queer polyamorous relationships, set alternately in Paris and San Francisco. We analyse the book alongside a selection of 'how to' guides to polyamorous relationships.
  • Guillaume Dustan's largely celebratory account of his sexual exploits in Paris's gay 'ghetto', le Marais, in the mid-late 1990s allows for further reflection on the idea of gay/queer kinship and community by way of contrast with Lindon and Delorme.
  • Then we move on to Virginie Despentes's infamous story of a killing spree by two young women, Nadine and Manu: Baise-moi. We read the novel in the light of Despentes's own later reflections on it and the controversy surrounding the film version of the text in her King Kong Théorie (2006). We discuss, in particular, the text's controversial depiction of sexual violence and consider a range of different feminist perspectives on pornography.
  • We end the module with a fictional account by Emmanuelle Pagano, the main protagonist of which, Adèle, is a MtF transsexual who returns incognito to her home village deep in the Ardèche countryside and seems to want nothing more than to drive the school bus and be left in peace. We analyse the novel's portrayal of trans identity in relation to some prominent theoretical work in transgender studies.

Please note that these texts contain very 'graphic' depictions variously of sex, prostitution, sexual violence and 'recreational' drug (ab)use. While the approach we take to these issues aims to be both sensitive and academically rigorous at all times, if you think you may find engaging with such material difficult then you would be best advised not to choose this module.

Core reading

  • Mathieu Lindon, Ce qu'aimer veut dire (2011) [Please buy the Folio edition]
  • Wendy Delorme, Quatrième Génération (2007)
  • Guillaume Dustan, Dans ma chambre (1996) [Please buy the 2013 POL collected edition entitled Œuvres I, which contains this text among others]
  • Virginie Despentes, Baise-moi (1994) [Please buy the Livre de poche or J'ai lu edition]
  • Emmanuelle Pagano, Les Adolescents troglodytes (2007)

Assessment Method:

These final-year modules will be examined EITHER by a combination of assessed work (50%) and formal examination (50%) OR solely by assessed essay (100%).