Intermediate III/Advanced French: Proust: A Reading Guide

Intermediate, Advanced—Year

As scholars and Proust lovers will be celebrating the centennial of the publication of Du côté de chez Swann this fall (the first volume of À la recherche du temps perdu was published on November 14, 1913 by Grasset), this course will offer an exciting opportunity to discover (or rediscover) an author who is often considered, somewhat paradoxically, as both unapproachable and too canonical—a daunting “classic” whose prolixity and intricate prose have discouraged many who often haven’t even tried to read him. Our main purpose will be to challenge this misconception and lift these barriers, providing the tools that will help reveal a different Proust far from the cliché of the precious, overanalytical esthete; rather, an audacious and, at times, scandalous and incredibly funny writer who profoundly renewed the form of the novel and had a lasting impact on 20th- and 21st-century literature well beyond France’s borders. While reading extensive excerpts from Du côté de chez Swann, we will deepen our understanding of the context in which Proust was writing by exploring contemporary works of fiction (Gide and Radiguet, for example, but also Virginia Woolf and James Joyce), as well as theoretical texts on the novel and its “crisis” by writers such as Paul Valéry, André Breton, Nathalie Sarraute, and Samuel Beckett. Once called an author “between two centuries,” Proust will offer the perfect vantage point from which to understand the metamorphosis of the French novel between the early 1800s and the late 1990s. The course will include a review of the finer points of French grammar, based on the texts that will be read in class. Students will improve their writing skills through regular exercises and assignments. They will also develop tools for literary analysis and will be introduced to the French essay format. Course conducted entirely in French.