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Modern Sexualities

Module Code: FR309
Module Name: Modern Sexualities
Module Credits: 15

Sex occupies far more prominent a place in public consciousness in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries than it did previously. Literary representations of sex and sexuality inevitably reflect this development. In this module we read 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 terms 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 Foucault stands as an alternative, queer, father and the other gay men in the circle of friends as queer siblings of sorts. Our second text, by queer activist and performer Wendy Delorme is a fast-paced, witty and poignant narrative of queer polyamorous relationships, set alternately in Paris and San Francisco. Guillaume Dustan's largely celebratory account of his sexual exploits in Paris's 'gay ghetto', Le Marais, in the 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 embarked upon by two young women, Nadine and Manu: Baise-moi. We read the story 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 end the module with an understated 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.

Please note that these texts contain 'graphic' depictions variously of sex, prostitution, sexual violence and 'recreational' drug-use. While the approach we take to these issues aims to be both sensitive and academically rigorous, if you think you may find engaging with such material difficult then you would be well 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 edition entitled Oeuvres I, which contains this text]
  • 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%).