Contemporary French Cinema: Universalism and its Others

Th 2:30PM - 5:25PM / 237 Cathedral of Learning / CRN 29659

This seminar will examine how the tradition of universalism in France has inflected and continues to inflect representations of space, migration, difference and history in French-language films. The course also explores how universalism has impacted the production, distribution, and reception structures of the French film industry up until the present. Étienne Balibar has argued that universalism is a social construction open to continual renegotiation, and one of our central preoccupations will be to understand how individual films and filmmakers have constructed and contested the universalizing cast of French culture and history from their own positionalities. We will study films from the French colonial and decolonization periods; we will examine the formation of auteurism in France and its use elsewhere as a universalizing impulse; we will look at contemporary films about France’s postcolonial communities and marginalized urban peripheries, and finally we will consider French-language filmmaking in North Africa, West Africa, Canada, and Belgium with an eye towards understanding how these films and filmmakers negotiate their relationship to the French language and hexagonal co-funding structures, distribution networks, and audiences. Our readings will include both broad theorizations and critiques of universalism (Badiou, Balibar, Memmi) and targeted research within film and media studies that deals with these issues. The seminar will be taught in English, the readings will be in English, and the films will have English subtitles. 

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David Pettersen

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Course Category

Category B: Disciplines and Intellectual Movements

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