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French 3503

Study of Theme

What is a theme, anyway? It's all very well to say that "theme" is really just another word for "subject", but that doesn't fully clear up the matter. As the Dictionnaire des littératures de langue française points out, « Le sujet, dès qu'il devient objet de pensée, fuit comme en un jeu de miroirs. Il n'en va pas autrement, en critique littéraire, du thème, ce sujet du discours. » (III, 2297, s.v. « Thème »)

The word "theme" is usually used to describe not the technique, plot, narrative structure, setting or characters of a literary work, but "what it's about" in a broader sense: the main idea that pervades it and from which all else flows. Unrequited love is one of the most common themes in literature: it is found in countless works of poetry, prose and drama, and has been treated on every scale from that of the madrigal and sonnet to that of the novel and the five-act play. Other frequently found themes include conflict in all its forms (from the personal scale of the family feud to the grand tableau of world war), human greed (for money, fame, or honour) and death (not only human death but that of plants and animals).

Course Content

Students in French 3503 will be encouraged to explore a chosen theme through study of a body of literary or other works, often from more than one genre (thus perhaps including poetry, prose and drama) and from different centuries whose common thread is their attachment to a particular theme. For example, variations on the always fascinating theme of love might be studied through the poems of Louise Labé and Charles Baudelaire, through the theatre of Molière (comedies such as L'École des femmes or Dom Juan), Racine (whose tragedy Phèdre remains one of the greatest depictions of a fatal attraction) and Alfred de Musset, and through novels by authors such as Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Anne Hébert (Kamouraska), and Michel Tournier (Le médianoche amoureux)

Prerequisite

15 credit hours in French at the 2000 level or permission of the Head of the Department

Textbooks

These will depend on the instructor and on the theme chosen for study.

Assessment

Will depend on the instructor, but will normally include one or more substantial written assignments and a written final examination.

Frequency

French 3503 is offered about every two years in the Fall and Winter Semesters.

After 3503

Students who wish to continue their study of literature should consider one of French 3500, 3501, 3502 or 3504; several courses at the 4000-level may also build on material taught in 3503.Two courses from this group are the prerequisites for 4000-level literature courses.

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