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FR335 Gender and Representation in French Media since 1970

Module Code: FR335
Module Name: Gender and Representation in French Media since 1970
Module Coordinator: Dr Mary Harrod
Term 2 Time: Fridays 09:00-11:00 Room: H4.44
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

In the "post-truth" mass-media age, representations are perhaps more influential than ever before. At the same time, while France has a particularly pronounced culture of gender differentiation, demonstrated by some French women's response to #MeToo, it is no exaggeration to say in any context that gender is among the most significant structuring axes around which human beings are categorised - even if such categories have gained in complexity in recent years.

This module provides an introduction to studying the gendered aspect of cultural representations across various forms of French media since the 1970s. Examples will be drawn substantially from French and Francophone cinema - from genre films to more provocative* auteur cinema - but will also include references to popular literary and televisual texts as well as print media. The module's key aim is to analyse cultural discourses around shifts in gender relations that have occurred in the public and private spheres since second-wave feminism, through the "post-" or third wave and perhaps now into the movement's very recently burgeoning fourth wave - including, in week 10, specifically in relation to #MeToo. To this end, the course will draw on critical approaches from both inside and outside France.

Thus, the first section of the module will examine the pioneering contributions to feminist thought provided by such philosophers and theorists as Julia Kristeva and Hélène Cixous in their relation to issues of representation, while later sessions will focus on the application of traditionally Anglo-American cultural and gender studies approaches from thinkers such as Judith Butler to the analysis of French media.

* The course includes occasional graphic material, including themes of sexual violence, depicted in one week's set film (A ma soeur!) and related media. Students who prefer not to engage with such ideas would be best advised to take a different course - even if such material in no way forms the bulk of focus.

I introduced this module upon joining Warwick in 2014-15, building on my various research interests in contemporary trasnational film and media, gender studies, history and theory, as well as drawing on my experience analysing both audiovisual and written texts. These skills have been developed in the belief that culture operates in an inter-disciplinary fashion and therefore a cross-media approach is best placed to take the temperature of particular issues over different time periods. The first year it was taught, a salient point highlighted by finalists' end-of-year surveys across French Studies was their newly sharpened recognition of the importance of studying gender. Several students from the course have gone on to pursue further study directly connected to the course, areas such as film and media studies or women's and gender studies at such institutions including Oxford, UCL, SOAS and the Sorbonne. In 2015-16, one student was jointly awarded the Undergraduate Essay prize by the journal Studies in French Cinema for their formative essay from the course. Student comments spontaneously emailed to me have included:

"I wanted to say thank you for the amazing course. It was enriching and very interesting."

(On this course and STATES OF THE NATION): "I've really really loved these two modules and they've been a highlight of my degree, thanks very much for your help over the year!"

"I really really enjoyed this module. I found it stimulating, engaging and informative – and it has actually been quite a significant contributing factor in my decision to pursue further academic study in this field in 2016.

"Things I particularly liked: the broad range of material covered – it was great to cover so many different films as well as written material."

"I really loved the way that we combined theoretical study with the film/novel of that particular week. It made for an engaging way of grappling with heavy theory. I have developed a minor obsession with Kristeva(!) and honestly just found that the theoretical study provided an invaluable background throughout my degree this year – both the English and the French side. I hadn’t studied French cinema since A Level, but found the module to cater particularly well for a group without much of a background in film."

Or, a representative comment from feedback questionnaires:

"Mary was always incredibly knowledgeable – able to answer questions and would often email throughout the week with useful information/events etc, which I really liked. This obvious enthusiasm for the content of the module also meant that the seminars were both informative and interesting."

And from our External Examiner: "An intellectually challenging and rewarding unit. An impressive quality of feedback."

Preliminary reading list

Fred Vargas, Sous les vents de Neptune (Editions Viviane Hamy, 2004; also available as a J"ai lu Policier paperback)
See Module Outline for further details.

NOTE FOR STUDENTS CHOOSING THIS MODULE IN 2019-20: The module is being updated now to include the French response to #MeToo as a topic.
Contact: m dot g dot m dot harrod at warwick dot ac dot uk

Assessment Method:

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