THE FANTASTIC: An Introduction to Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Gothic Horror in France and Belgium

 

Instructor: Christopher L. Robinson, Ph.D.

 

Overview

 

The French literary theorist Tzvetan Todorov famously defined the fantastic as a mode of fiction that wavers on the borders of the real and the imaginary. This mode encompasses three genres in which writers in both France and Belgium excel.

 

Science Fiction: From their earliest works in the 17th century to those of the present, French writers of SF have been less concerned about new technologies, faraway planets, or the distant future, than the question of what it means to be human. Treating the genre as both a medium of political discourse and a literature of ideas, they have addressed the great social and philosophical issues of their time as visionaries and poets.

 

Fantasy: Better known as phantasmagorie, féérie or merveilleux, French fantasy has its roots in the literature and legends of the Middle Ages. The region of Brittany, in particular, is famous for infusing Catholic mysticism into pagan folktales of korrigans, mermaids, and Ankou, the personification of Death. The most fertile medium for French-language fantasy, however, is the graphic novel or bande dessinée.

 

Gothic Horror: The nation that gave birth to the century of Enlightenment has also proven to be a fertile breeding ground for monsters of all sorts, from the Hunchback of Notre Dame to the Phantom of the Opera. French novelists and poets typically blend the macabre with the erotic, as in their tales of seductive mummies, vampire lovers, and debauched devil-worshippers.

 

In addition to studying the formal and aesthetic aspects of fantastic fiction in a variety of media, we will place individual works in their historical and cultural as we discuss reactions to the 18th century Enlightenment, the French revolution(s) and restoration(s), anti-clericalism, romanticism, Darwinism, psychoanalysis, etc.

 

Contents

 

The course will be taught in the manner of an American university seminar, which means that (1) active participation will be favored over class lectures, and (2) the reading list and assignments will be determined with input from the students.

 

Readings will include English translations of poems, short stories and excerpts from novels. We may also examine works of art and cinema. Students will be encouraged to explore bandes dessinées and video games on their own, and then share their discoveries with their classmates.

 

Special Events

 

Students will be invited to two events organized with student clubs from Polytechnique and ENSTA:

 

In October, a Halloween celebration, with a screening of Eyes Without a Face by George Franju (1960) and Grave by Julia Decorneau (2016).

 

In September, a screening of Denis Villeneuve’s SF masterpiece, Arrival (2016), followed by a roundtable with a physicist from the CEA, a biologist from the National Museum of Natural History, and a linguist from the CNRS.

 

A Sampling of the French Fantastic

 

SF

Cyrano de Bergerac, Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon

J.B. Cousin de Grainville, The Last Man

J.H. Rosny-Ainé: The Death of the Earth, The Quest for Fire, The Xipéhuz

Jules Verne: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

René Barjavel: Ashes Ashes, Future Times Three, The Ice People

Pierre Bouille: Planet of the Apes

 

Fantasy

Honoré de Balzac, The Magic Skin

Anatole Le Braz, Dealings with the Dead, The Night of Fires, Blood of the Mermaid

Alain Damasio, The WindWalkers

J.L. Fetjaine, The Elf Trilogies, In the Steps of Merlin

 

Gothic Horror

Georges Sand, The Devil’s Pool

Théophile Gauthier, “The Mummy’s Foot”

Guy de Maupassant, “The Horla,” “A Tress of Hair”

Karl-Joris Huysmans, The Damned

Charles Baudelaire, “To She Who Is Too Gay,” “A Martyr,” “The Metamorphosis of a Vampire,” “The Monster,” etc.

 

Films

Georges Méliès, A Trip to the Moon, Journey through the Impossible, The Astronomer’s

   Dream

Jean Cocteau, Orpheus, Beauty and the Beast

Chris Marker, La jétée

René Laloux, Fantastic Planet

Jean-Jacques Annaud, The Quest for Fire

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children

Luc Besson, The Fifth Element

 

Bandes Dessinées

François Bourgeon, The Twilight Companions

Régis Loisel, The Quest for the Bird of Time

Jacques Tardi, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

Moebius & Jodorowsky, The Incal

Jodorowsky & Giménez, Metabarons, Technopriests

Van Hamme & Rosinski, Thorgal

Building the French Nation under conflicting identities. Religion, Politics and Culture from the Old Regime to Our Time

HFC C652

 

The course is designed to study the national building of France in the Modern Times. An emphasis will be put on the conflicting identities between the old definition of a monarchical and catholic Nation and the new civil identity based on a secular state (the “republican model”). The course will specifically study the changing character of the French “laïcité” (secularism). The program also includes various examples taken from the history of the French colonial empire (especially the case of Algeria and of the French Antilles).

Tuesday, 10:30-12:30

 

Assessment: each student make one Oral Presentation (alone or by duo) + Final Written Exam. Components of the Final Grade: Presentation (40%), Exam (40%), Participation (20%)

 

Reader: texts will be distributed in advance for each session (except session # 1)

 

Session # 1 (09/26)

Lecture (by professor)

“Religion and Politics under the Old Regime”

Church and State relationship in Christian World. Was free thinking “thinkable” in Medieval Times? Importance of the Reformation in France. The building of the Modern state. The notion of “raison d’Etat”.

Workshop (by students + professor)

Discussion on use and meaning of terms and concepts: Secularization, Dechristianization, Laïcité

Discussion on the “Quinet’s thesis”

 

Session # 2 (10/03)

Lecture

“Conflicting Identities under the French Revolution”

The French Revolution and the question of religious opinions. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy. The revolutionary cults. Civil war: religious war?

Workshop

Presentation: “How one could explain the failure of the revolutionary cults?”

Discussion of the “Ozouf’s thesis”

 

Session # 3 (10/17, no session on 10/10: X-Forum)

Lecture:

“Building a Republican Model”

Concordat or Separation: the ambivalence of the republicans. The strife over the control of the school system. Building a republican patriotism on a secular cult of the state. The question of a civil religion.

Workshop

Presentation: “The French republican free-masonry: its strength and development”

Discussion of the “Nicolet’s model”

 

Session # 4 (10/24)

Lecture

“Building the Nation in the Empire”

In the Antilles: slavery, abolition, racial inequalities, republican “emancipation”. In the French Algeria: a Republic based on segregation

Workshop

Presentation: “The case of the Algerian Jews”

Discussion of the “Tocqueville’s thesis”

 

Session # 5 (11/07, holyday break on 10/31)

Lecture

“From Dreyfus to Vichy: building a place for the French Jewish community”

The historical place of the Jews in France. Emancipation and assimilation since the Revolution. Republican identities of the French Jews (failure of Zionism). The case of the French Antisemitism. Policies of the Vichy Regime.

Workshop

Presentation: “The Dreyfus Affair: origins and impact”

Discussion of the “Birnbaum’s model”

 

Session # 6 (11/14)

Lecture

“Towards a Secularized Nation? The Historical decline and the crisis of the Church”

France after 1945: the decline of the political and social role of Catholicism. The most secularized Western Nation?

Workshop

Presentation: “The Story of l’Abbé Pierre between Religion and media stardom”

Discussion of the “Hervieu-Léger’s thesis”

 

Session # 7 (11/21)

Lecture

“Gaullism: a New Civil Religion, 1940 to our day”

The case of De Gaulle between religious belief and secular state. National Funerals at Notre-Dame of Paris. Political fervor and enthusiasm

Workshop

Presentation: “What is a political charisma: the case of De Gaulle?”

 

Session # 8 (11/28)

Lecture

“The Origins of the new “question laïque” (Islam in France I)”

History of immigration in France. Crisis in Algeria: divisions, conflicts, war for Independence and forms of civil wars. The impact of the Algerian War in France.

Workshop

Presentation: “The law banishing the Islamic veil, 2004: arguments and counter-arguments”

 

Session # 9 (12/05)

Lecture

“Reshaping the National Identity (Islam in France II)”

The history of immigration in France. Policies of integration and its failures. The development of Islam. The new “question laïque” (reshaping of secularism). Attacks of 2015 and 2016.

Workshop

Presentation: “How to define and explain the rise of the “French jihadists”?”

Discussion of the duel between Olivier Roy’s thesis and Gilles Kepel’s thesis

 

Session # 10 (12/12)

Final Written Exam

 

Recommended Readings

 

English

Jeremy D. Popkin, A history of Modern France, NJ, Pearson Prentice Hall, Edition: 4th: ISBN-13: 978-0205846825

Alice Conklin, Sarah Fishman, Robert Zaretsky, France and Its Empire Since 1870, Oxford University Press, 2014, 2nd edition: ISBN-13: 978-0199384440

Pierre Nora (ed.), Realms of memory: rethinking the French past, Columbia university Press

Edward Berenson, Vincent Duclert, Christophe Prochasson, The French Republic: history, values, debates, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2011: ISBN-13: 978-0801477843

François Furet, Mona Ozouf (ed.), A political dictionary of the French Revolution, Belknap Press.

Robert Gildea, Children of the Revolution. The French, 1799-1914, Harvard University Press

Danièle Hervieu-Léger, Religion as a chain of Memory, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2000: ISBN-13: 978-0813528281

Olivier Roy, Secularism confronts Islam, NY, Columbia University Press, 2007: ISBN-13: 978-0231141031

Joan Scott, The politics of the veil, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2010 (paperback): ISBN-13: 978-0691147987

 

French

Jean Baubérot (Histoire de la laïcité en France), Philippe Portier (L’Etat et les religions en France), Pierre Manent (Situation de la France), Gilles Kepel (Les banlieues de l’islam), Olivier Roy (Le djihad et la mort).

 

 

The course is an introduction to economic sociology. As a subfield that has grown extraordinarily over the past thirty years, economic sociology has proposed a sociological investigation of economic phenomena. It first seeks to critique the analytical assumptions and epistemology commonly shared within mainstream economics. But it also offers sociologically grounded of economic phenomena. It ultimately searches to formulate alternative accounts of economic behavior and economic processes. Economic sociology therefore claims that rational action hypothesis does not offer accurately represent individual economic actions, not more than perfect competition provides an understanding of concrete market mechanisms.

This course will provide an overview of the broad concerns and approaches in economic sociology, and review the sociological explanations of economic activities. Its organization . A first sequence will be devoted to two basic economic phenomena: exchange and market. It will question markets as naturally “emerging” mechanisms, by shedding light on non-market types of exchange (such as gifts) and on market-building processes. A second sequence will be devoted to four categories of economic actors: States, firms, consumers, and economists.

Students are expected to attend each meeting, and participate actively in class. The final paper will constitute 80% of the grade. Participation in class discussions will add up to the remaining 20% of the grade.

The aim of this class is twofold. The first one is to improve  your language skills, in both oral and written English. The second is to give you an initiation to philosophical and critical  thinking  through political philosophy. You will learn basic philosophical skills, such as defining and analyzing concepts, commenting a text to capture its author's thought process, building and criticizing an argument, question assumptions behind everyday life, and take part to a rational discussion.

 To this end, we will start from a very simple premise. You are currently studying so that you can land the job of your dreams. But what do we work for? What is the ultimate purpose of  work for an individual and for society as whole? Who reaps the benefits of work, and why? What is the right articulation between work and leisure, personal and public life?  Reflecting upon those issues will lead to question some the conceptual foundations of our modern societies, such as money, labor, capital, property and merit.

 There will be readings every week. On top of the final written exam, short written essays (~2 pages) every two weeks and oral participation per student will constitute the bulk of your work and evaluation.

 

“Multicultural France” introduces students to another aspect of contemporary France, which takes into account its colonial past and multicultural present, through the lens of cultural productions (literature, film, documentaries). Examples of class topics:

-          France’s recent colonial history
-          Multiculturalism, Secularism and Assimilation
-          France’s multicultural territories, such as Marseille and Overseas France
-          The banlieue film then and now, from La Haine, (1995), to Divines (2016)
-          Migrant and Francophone literatures: Leila Sebbar, Alain Mabanckou, etc.
The course will be based on preliminary readings/viewings, group work, oral presentations and seminar discussions.

This course examines the social dimensions of racial identity politics and racial diversity in contemporary France, especially with regards to French racial minorities. We will review how social scientists have made sense of race and ethnicity through key concepts, theories, historical accounts, and empirical research.

We will also examine the “sites/locations” where racial/ethnic experiences take place and identify the contextual factors that make racial identities and that define race relations in contemporary France. Some common sites social scientists look at are social institutions such as work/economy, culture, media, and politics.


The main objectives of this course are:

®    Provide key concepts to discuss issues of racial politics in France.

®    Identify how race and ethnicity has shaped the lives of different majority and minority groups in France.

®    Utilize key scholarly literature to discuss issues related to race and ethnicity in contemporary France.

 

Some of the issues that will be discussed in class include:

®    Overview of the major concepts: race, racism, discrimination, prejudice

®    National identity, nationality, citizenship

®    Immigration versus racial minorities

®    Naming and numbering

®    Socio-economic structures

®    Politics and public policy

The aim of this class is twofold. The first one is to improve  your language skills, in both oral and written English. The second is to give you an initiation to philosophical and critical  thinking  through political philosophy. You will learn basic philosophical skills, such as defining and analyzing concepts, commenting a text to capture its author's thought process, building and criticizing an argument, question assumptions behind everyday life, and take part to a rational discussion.

 To this end, we will start from a very simple premise. You are currently studying so that you can land the job of your dreams. But what do we work for? What is the ultimate purpose of  work for an individual and for society as whole? Who reaps the benefits of work, and why? What is the right articulation between work and leisure, personal and public life?  Reflecting upon those issues will lead to question some the conceptual foundations of our modern societies, such as money, labor, capital, property and merit.

 There will be readings every week. On top of the final written exam, short written essays (~2 pages) every two weeks and oral participation per student will constitute the bulk of your work and evaluation.

 

In science fiction movies and texts, the explanation scene is a gender stereotype. This scene may be serious or funny, but it has invariably a strategic position : it’s the moment when the reader or the spectator has precisely to move on from science to fiction. Even in Countdown (Altman, 1967), a film that its director defines as « science fiction without fiction », this scene does exist and this movement does happen. A first way to figure out  how science fiction literature and cinema make us think  will be to study these scenes in the masterpieces that have marked the history of science fiction : Frankenstein (Shelley, 1818), Journey to the Center of the Earth (Verne, 1864), The Time Machine (Wells, 1895), 1984 (Orwell, 1949), 2001. A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968), Brazil (Gilliam, 1985), Matrix (Wachowski, 1999). It will be an opportunity to test the Deleuze’s idea that philosophy can be written as science fiction on « the extreme edge between our knowledge and our ignorance, where they pass within each other » (Difference and Repetition, 1968). But science fiction makes us think far beyond what it explains. How ? By dealing with everyday problems but in an extraordinary way. Consider for instance marital and filial relationships in Maybe (Klapish, 1999), environment but also handicap in Avatar (Cameron, 2009), justice in Minority Report (Spielberg, 2002) memory in The Jetty (Marquer, 1962). This second way to read and watch science fiction will allow us to question the more implicit and critical understanding of the world we live in which science fiction can offer.

There will be readings every week. On top of the final written exam, short written essays (~2 pages) every two weeks and oral participation per student will constitute the bulk of your work and evaluation.

Introduction

Les fausses nouvelles diffusées largement sur les réseaux sociaux ont-elles fait élire Donald Trump à la présidence des Etats-Unis ? La prochaine guerre aura-t-elle lieu dans le cyberespace ? Les GAFA sont-ils les nouvelles puissances des relations internationales ? Comment le numérique transforme-t-il le rapport des sociétés nationales et internationales à leur histoire, leur mémoire et leurs droits fondamentaux ?

Au cœur des inquiétudes contemporaines, ces différentes questions révèlent l’attitude ambivalente que les sociétés et ceux qui les gouvernent entretiennent avec la « révolution numérique ». Tantôt louée pour les progrès qu’elle permet, tantôt crainte pour les bouleversements qu’elle induit, cette révolution n’a jamais suscité autant d’attention et d’analyses. Pour autant, les acteurs s’interrogent encore sur son ampleur – changement de paradigme ou simple retour de questionnements plus anciens ? – et la manière dont elle affecte véritablement les sociétés, les Etats et leur rapport à la conflictualité.

A travers l’analyse des principales thématiques contemporaines, ce cycle de conférences proposera de s’interroger sur les grands défis que pose la révolution numérique aux sociétés (militaires, diplomates, juristes, acteurs économiques, opinions publiques, ONG). Il combinera des approches diverses et pluridisciplinaires tout en offrant une initiation aux relations internationales et aux enjeux de sécurité.


Organisation du cours

Le cycle de conférences est composé de 8 séances, chacune explorant une dimension de la révolution numérique tout en s’inscrivant dans une perspective plus générale de relations internationales et d’études de la guerre.

Ces séances auront lieu les vendredis indiqués ci-dessous de 12h05 à 13h20. Elles se présenteront sous la forme suivante : 45 minutes de présentation et 30 minutes de discussion et d’échanges.

Les séances seront les suivantes (descriptifs ci-dessous) :

  • 02 février 2018 – Introduction à la stratégie militaire dans le cyberespace
  • 09 février 2018 – Comment le cyberespace transforme les relations internationales et les enjeux géopolitiques ?

  • 23 février 2018 – Numérique, Etat et sociétés
  • 9 mars 2018 – Perceptions de la guerre et manipulations dans le cyberespace
  • 23 mars 2018 – La guerre économique dans le cyberespace

  • 13 avril 2018 – Révolution numérique, droit et éthique

  • 4 mai 2018 – Numérique et transformation digitale dans l’armée
  • 18 mai 2018 – Cyber et renseignement


Objectifs et évaluation

Le cycle de conférences « Révolution numérique, défense et société » vise à donner aux étudiants des fondamentaux sur les « études de la guerre » (War Studies) par le prisme d’un sujet à la fois très actuel et « subversif » au regard des cadres théoriques classiques : la révolution numérique.

Il s’inscrit dans un cycle plus large de « Security Studies » qui est composé des 8 séances ci-dessous, mais également d’une journée séminaire et de deux tables rondes organisées le mardi soir 20 mars et le mardis soir 3 avril par l’IHEDN, ainsi qu’un cycle de conférences type grand témoins sur les thèmes « Innovation et stratégie de défense », « l’armement », « les enjeux de l’export de défense », « l’armée face aux conflits d’aujourd’hui »  qui seront proposées dans le cadre du cycle de conférences du mardi soir.

Ainsi, le cycle de conférences « Révolution numérique, défense et société » n’oblige pas les élèves à suivre l’ensemble du cycle. Néanmoins, la participation à 75% des séances du cycle « Révolution numérique, défense et société » ainsi qu’à trois conférences supplémentaires (organisées par l’IEDN et/ou conférences type grand témoin) ouvrira le droit à l’inscription de la mention suivante sur le transcript : « Advanced Defense and Security studies ».