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FR345 Modern French Thinkers

Module Code: FR345
Module Name: Modern French Thinkers
Module Coordinator: Dr Oliver Davis
Time TBC
Module Credits: 30

*** Students considering choosing this module for 2020-21 please scroll down for revised module description and new core texts ***

Module Description

This module traditionally explores some of the most important ideas and significant developments in French thought. In 2019–20, the focus will be on the period since World War II. We will examine a selection of important works by key thinkers of this period, setting these works in their wider intellectual and historical contexts.

In Term 1, we will examine the concept of myth and mythology in modern society, considering how, and why, ideologies and habits of thought are deployed to influence everyday life and behaviour. We will explore matters such as the relation between individual and society; sexual identity and sexual difference; gender and politics, and gender politics; the interaction of philosophy, language and psychoanalysis; and theoretical concepts such as modernism, postmodernism, structuralism, feminism, and existentialism.

Term 2 is focussed on three influential thinkers of the twentieth century whose work is closely connected.

This module offers crucial insights into some of the pressing concerns and key questions that continue to spark off intense public debate in France today. In 2019–20, the module will be taught by by Dr Amanda Hopkins in Term 1 and Dr Holly Langstaff in Term 2. Please contact Holly Langstaff, the module convenor, with any questions:

Some previous students' comments on the module

'It's easy to see the relevance of the texts today — it is relevant.'

'The content is excellent. The reading never felt laborius and always feels fun and stimulating to do.'

'Ideas are always put up for debate… I have enjoyed seeing a range of opinions that differed from my own as it truly made me think.'

'I feel as if I've learnt a lot.'

'I shall miss the classes.'

'Enthusiastic tutor who made subject interesting. Great opportunities for student discussion, and debate with tutor.'

Core texts

Term 1
Term 2

Please ensure you buy the specified editions.

Assessment method

You may choose to be examined in the following ways:
100% formal three-hour examination
100% assessed work, consisting of TWO assessed essays, each of 4,000-4,500 words in length
50% formal two-hour examination plus 50% ONE assessed essay of 4,000-4,500 words in length.

(For more details see here.)

For students considering choosing this module to study in 2020-21

Module description

This two-term module explores some of the most original and significant ideas in Modern French thought. The module is structured around the concept of the subject, or self: in the first term we explore, in turn, the feeling, learning and thinking subject. In the second term we explore the subject of reverie, the subject of sexuality and the subject of nature. The thinkers we study offer thought-provoking visions of what it means to be a human subject: to feel emotion, to learn, to understand ourselves in terms of science and neuroscience, to be liberated or trapped by categories of sexual identity, to grasp our freedom in the context of environmental destruction and climate emergency. As well as testing your understanding of the material, the assessment is designed to allow you to develop a range of transferable critical thinking and writing skills and comprises: a short critique of a journal article (a summary, contextualisation and discussion of a selected piece of secondary reading), an essay of 3000-3500 words and a two-hour exam. The module will be taught in 2020-21 by Dr Oliver Davis.

Term 1
  • The feeling subject: Jean-Paul Sartre, Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (1939). Please buy the Livre de Poche edition.
  • The learning subject: Jacques Rancière, Le Maître ignorant: cinq leçons sur l’émancipation intellectuelle (1987). Please buy the 10/18 edition.
  • The thinking subject: Catherine Malabou, Métamorphoses de l’intelligence (2017). Please buy this edition.
Term 2
Assessment for 2020-21
  • 20% critique of journal article (1200-1500 words)
  • 40% essay (3000-3500 words)
  • 40% exam (2 hours)

You will have the opportunity to develop all of the necessary skills to enable you to complete these tasks during the module before the final summative assessments.