Writing and Criminality
This module will not be available in 2012-13
About this Module
This module will examine the work of two French writers who have been assimilated into the ‘canon’ of French literature despite being convicted criminals. Brushes with the law (sometimes resulting in imprisonment) marked the biographies of both François Villon (1431-after 1463) and Jean Genet (1910-1986); their works feature as protagonists young men who revolt against or subvert the established order of the day while breaking society's taboos. Villon's satirical verse Testament and Genet's Journal du voleur, although separated by almost five hundred years, raise similar problems: how can readers, faced with disturbing, shocking or offensive material, safeguard their own values, and what role should an author's biography be allowed to play in the interpretation of her/his works? In addition to studying complementary works by both writers, the module will also give attention to the reception of both authors insofar as it may represent a desire to play down the subversive nature of their texts and reclaim them for a general readership of the ‘classics’. Lectures will provide historical, biographical and theoretical starting-points for the analysis of extracts from both authors in seminars. Through guided close reading, you will become familiar with manipulative strategies on the part of narrators, and will be able to reflect critically on your own role in the relationship between the literary text and its readers.
Teaching and Learning
Lectures and student-led seminars, which will normally involve guided close reading of extracts from the set texts. Taught and examined in English. This module is capped at 35. Attendance will be monitored in all teaching sessions.
- Assessment 1 (Term 1): 1200-word literary commentary on an extract from Villon's Le Testament (20%)
- Assessment 2 (Term 2): 1800-word essay with a choice of questions on the set texts (30%)
- Two-hour examination consisting of a choice of essay and commentary questions (50%)
- François Villon, Poésies complètes, ed. Claude Thiry (Livre de Poche, Lettres gothiques, 1991)
- Jean Genet, Journal du voleur (Folio); Les Bonnes, ed. Michel Corvin (Folio théâtre)
Extensive extracts from Francis Carco's Le roman de François Villon and Jean-Paul Sartre's Saint-Genet comédien et martyr will also be studied.
Professor David Cowling (firstname.lastname@example.org), room A34, Elvet Riverside I.