LT/GS 345 - The Poetics and Politics of Gender in France: From French Feminism to Gender Studies

This course will retrace and seek to understand the gradual shift in France from feminist theory to gender studies. Unlike in the American and British Academe, where the academic merit of

these subjects was established over a half-century ago, in France, it was only at the beginning of the

21st century that gender and women’s studies began to be recognized as an essential element of our worldview. Ironically, Anglo-Saxon scholars have nonetheless drawn heavily from the French feminist canon: we need look no further than Judith Butler, who based her own analyses on works of French feminism (Cixous, Irigaray, Kristeva) as well as on French theory (Foucault, Derrida). The course will examine this paradox, and in particular attempt to show how Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949) gave rise in the 70’s to two opposing branches of French feminism, of which one, embodied by the works of Monique Wittig, would bring about the shift from a feminist reclamation to a broader theory of gender, or, as was the case with Marie-Hélène Bourcier, a veritable «queer theory». Monique Wittig’s movement was both political and artistic, as the revolution that it heralded would be expressed in the literary domain, notably Les Guérillères in 1969. The question of the relationship between the gender identity of an artist and the gendered nature of an artistic work will play a significant role in our reflection. This will also allow us to consider another shift: the shift from the reclamation of a feminine literature (Antoinette Fouque and women’s publishing houses) to that of a gay and lesbian literature (queer re-readings by Violette Leduc and Jean Genet). The course will therefore center on five themes:

  1. From feminism to gender studies
  2. The blurring of literary genders
  3. The politics and poetics of gender
  4. Queer readings
  5. Gender confusion

Course Information


Gender Studies

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