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Modern French Thinkers, 2018-19

Module Code: FR345
Module Name: Modern French Thinkers
Module Coordinator: Dr Holly Langstaff
Wednesday 09.00-11.00 in H0.44
Module Credits: 30

Module Description

This module traditionally explores some of the most important ideas and significant developments in French thought. In 2018–19, 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 the thinking of technology in the work of Jacques Derrida, Bernard Stiegler, and Catherine Malabou. This second half of the module proposes an introduction to Derridean thought through an examination of the notion of archi-écriture as it is articulated in De la grammatologie. Derrida is one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century; Stiegler and Malabou situate their work in his wake but also suggest that their approaches move beyond Derridean ‘deconstruction’ through insights drawn from contemporary scientific research in biological anthropology and neuroscience respectively. We will examine the contention that our experience of time is technically constituted in Stiegler’s La Technique et le temps and Malabou’s elaboration of the concept of plasticity in Que faire de notre cerveau?

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 2018–19, 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 in 2018-19, 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
  • Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie (1967). Please buy Minuit edition.
  • Bernard Stiegler, La Technique et le temps, 3 vols (1994-2001). We will read extracts from all three volumes; copies will be available in the library and in Warwick bookshop if you would like to consult the entire work.
  • Catherine Malabou, Que faire de notre cerveau? (2004)

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.)