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Sex and Sexuality in Contemporary French Writing

Module Code: FR357
Module Name: Sex and Sexuality in Contemporary French Writing
Module Coordinator: Professor Oliver Davis

Term 2

Module Credits: 15

Student feedback headlines 2021-2

  • 'the most interesting module that I've taken during my time at Warwick'
  • 'my favourite module I've taken in my 4 years at Warwick'

Module description

In this module we explore a selection of contemporary French literary and essayistic 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 theoretical and practical assessments of 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 Chloé Delaume’s polemical essay from 2019, which surveys and contributes to the renewal of feminism in France in the wake of the #MeToo movement and develops a contemporary conception of ‘viral’ sisterhood as a new weapon in the struggle against patriachy.
  • We end the term 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 pictured on the right of this page]
  • 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]
  • Chloé Delaume, Mes bien chères sœurs (2019)
  • Emmanuelle Pagano, Les Adolescents troglodytes (2007)


One 3000-3500-word essay (80%) and one 15-minute individual oral presentation (20%). [From academic year 2022-3 the presentation will be a 10-minute presentation for the same 20%.]

Mode of delivery

In academic year 2021-2 and 2022-3 the mode of delivery will consist of one online asynchronous lecture and one one-hour seminar in each teaching week of the relevant term ('blended learning').

Student feedback

For a summary of student feedback on the module in 2021-2 and the tutor's response please see here.