The Word and the Image

You are here

Course Information
Discipline(s): 
Literature
Film Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall
Credits: 
3
Language of instruction: 
French
Prerequisites: 

None

Description: 

The task of telling stories by projecting moving images coincides with the birth of cinematography. From its creation in France at the end of the 19th century, cinema will come to combine the art of the image already practiced by painting or photography, with the art of the story-telling traditionally embodied in literary discourse. The animated story that is offered through cinema therefore represents a unique and new role in the history of the arts. Unlike photographic film, the duration of cinematographic film is imposed upon the viewer. Unlike theatre, cinema relies on montage and presents a point of view, which can in turn bring us closer to the narrating point of view of the literary perspective. However, the specificity of cinematic narrative has not always been acknowledged, and cinema has long been regarded as a lesser literary form, mostly because of the film industry, but also because it seems to provide the spectator with images, while the literary narrative forces the reader to use his or her imagination. This course approaches cinema as an art combining both word and image in the larger context of its problematic yet innovative relation to literature.

Throughout the semester, themes will be developed:

  1. The Image and Imagination: From Reader to Spectator
  2. From Literature to Cinema: The Question of Adaptation
  3. Writer’s Cinema: The Singularity of Marguerite Duras
  4. From Textual to Visual Narrative: The Specificity of Cinema
Learning outcomes: 

At the end of the semester, students will be able to:

  • Analyze the relationship between literature (text) and film (image), both theoretically and practically
  • Analyze the specificity of the textual and visual narrative
  • Discuss solid base of general culture on the history of French cinema
Method of presentation: 

Students must obtain and read two short stories and one screenplay throughout the semester:

  • “Une partie de campagne” in La Maison Tellier by Maupassant (available in paperback).
  • Hiroshima mon amour by Marguerite Duras (éd. Folio)
  • "Le Chef d’œuvre inconnu" in Le Chef d’œuvre inconnu by Balzac (available in paperback).

A course packet will be made available for the students via the Moodle platform.

Students are also encouraged to view the films in their entirety outside of class.

Field study: 

A Field Trip will be organized at the Cinémathèque Française de Bercy or at the Forum des Images (exposition, film screening or conference)

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Mid-term exam - 25%
  • Final exam - 30%
  • Film Critique (10 pages) - 30%
  • Summary - 15%

Exams (Midterm and Final)
Covers the themes and questions discussed throughout the course through textual and visual analysis.

Film Critique
Structured and prepared as an academic essay, but can draw inspiration from cinematic or literary criticism, and should be ten pages. The student will choose a film adaptation of a literary text and will analyze it in the context of the class.

Summary
Two pages discussing a reading, a film or a field trip in connection with the theme of the course

content: 
Session Content Readings and Assignments
THEME I: The Image and Imagination: From Reader to Spectator
1

Introduction I: Arts of Words and Arts of Images, an historical and aesthetic approach

Text by André Bazin, Qu’est-ce que le cinéma ? (in course pack)

  • Read syllabus
2 Introduction II: What is the “writing of the (cinematographic) movement”?
Cinematographic approach. The industry’s question.
 
3

From the Reader to the Spectator I

Texts by Georges Duhamel (Scènes de la vie future, 1930), Michel Tournier (Le vent paraclet, 1977) and Julien Gracq ("Literature and cinema", 1991), in the course packet

4

From the Reader to the Spectator II

Roland Barthes, "En sortant du cinéma" (Communications, N° 23, 1975), in the course packet

5 The “caméra-stylo” concept

Alexandre Astruc article (“La caméra-stylo”, in the course packet)

  • The Methodology of Cinematographic Analysis
6 Arrêt sur image: Freeze Frame viewing and analysis
Precise analysis of literary and cinematographic storytelling
 
THEME II: From Literature to Cinema: The question of Adaptation
7 Adaptation in Question: from Loyalty to Creation

François Truffaut, "A certain tendency of the French cinema" (1954)

8 The Question of Aesthetics: Two Points of View on Maupassant I

Maupassant, “Une partie de Campagne” (in La Maison Tellier, 1881)

9 The Question of Aesthetics: Two Points of View on Maupassant II

Maupassant, “Une partie de Campagne” (in La Maison Tellier, 1881)

10 The Question of Aesthetics: Two Points of View on Maupassant III

Jean-Luc Godard, Masculin Féminin (1966) and Vivre sa vie (1962) (very loose adaptations of two short stories by Maupassant, La Femme de Paul and Le Signe, as well as novel by Emile Zola novel, Nana)

11 The Question of Aesthetics: Two Points of View on Maupassant IV

Jean-Luc Godard, Masculin Féminin (1966) and Vivre sa vie (1962) (very loose adaptations of two short stories by Maupassant, La Femme de Paul and Le Signe, as well as novel by Emile Zola novel, Nana)

  • Midterm Review
12 Mid-term Exam  
THEME III - Writer's Cinema: The Singularity of Marguerite Duras
  • Students should read and bring to class the screenplay of Hiroshima mon amour by Marguerite Duras (Folio, 1960)
13 A Writer’s Scenario I: Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

Screenplay by Marguerite Duras, film by Alain Resnais

14 A Writer’s Scenario II: Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

Screenplay by Marguerite Duras, film by Alain Resnais

15 Le Camion: the filmed tale

Camion screenplay (éd. Minuit, 1977), handouts/ course pack, and film (1977)

16 The Misunderstanding of L’Amant: the story of a "faithful" adaptation Marguerite Duras, L'Amant (Minuit, 1984), handouts/ course pack, Jean-Jacques Annaud, L'Amant
17 L’Amant de la Chine du Nord : the Fantasy of the Resurrected Movie

Marguerite Duras, L’Amant de la Chine du Nord (Gallimard, 1991) handouts/ course pack

  • Reading/ Field Trip/ Film Summary Due
THEME IV: From Textual to Visual Narrative: The specificity of cinema
18 Balzac’s Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu: Presentation of the novella

Bring Balzac’s novella to class

19 Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu: Discussion on mimèsis

Bring Balzac’s novella to class

20 The adaptation of Rivette: The Temporality Art

Bring Balzac’s novella to class

21 Cinema at the crossroads of the Arts I: The Animation of Still-Lives

Example from Tous les matins du monde (novel by Pascal Quignard, extracts found in course packet, and adapted film by Alain Corneau in 1991)

22 Cinema at the crossroads of the Arts II: The Resurrection of Forgotten Music

Example from Tous les matins du monde (novel by Pascal Quignard, extracts found in course packet, and adapted film by Alain Corneau in 1991)

23 Review

Final exam revision
Discussion on independent student research work

  • Film Critique Due
24 Final Exam

 

Required readings: 
  • Courses Presentations (On Moodle).
  • Balzac, Le Chef d’œuvre inconnu, Folio
  • Maupassant, La Maison Tellier, Folio
  • Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima mon amour, Gallimard, 1960 
  • _______, Le Camion, Minuit, 1977 
  • _______, L’Amant, Minuit, 1984 
  • _______, L’Amant de la Chine du Nord, Gallimard, 1991 
  • _______, Les yeux verts, Petite Bibliothèque des Cahiers du cinéma, 1996
  • Pascal Quignard, Tous les matins du monde, Gallimard, 1991