FRENCH 50 -01

Culture and Identity Through French, African, Caribbean, and North American Film

Joëlle Vitiello

T-Th: 10:10-11:40 H111

Office hours: Tuesday 2:30-3:30 and by appointment in Humanities 103

Movie sessions: Sunday evening 7:00-10:00 (H401)

Course objectives:

This course will focus on the comparative cultural representations of national, colonial and post-colonial, racial, and sexual identity through a variety of films. It will introduce students to critical interdisciplinary approaches to the study of culture. It is intended neither as a course in "movie appreciation" nor as an exercise in Siskel-and-Ebert reacting to films. Rather, the course will offer an introduction to theoretical concepts that students are likely to meet in other disciplines over the course of their studies at Macalester. This course will expose students to a variety of theories used in Cultural Studies.

Although what seems to unify the various regions represented in the course is the use of the French language, we will see that the question of language is complicated (especially in Sugar Cane Alley by Euzhan Palcy and Xala by Sembene Ousmane). We will study key concepts such as "métissage", racism, and whiteness for instance and see how they are dealt with in various cultures. Examples will include the treatment of immigration in France, the representation of French suburbs and the suburban culture (French suburbs correspond to U.S. inner-cities and French and African rap and raï music differ significantlyfrom American rap and hip hop), and the historicization of the concept of "otherness". Terms such as "francophone," "créolité," or "détour," which have become common in French-speaking Caribbean studies are useful in understanding cultures born from the Middle Passage and their modes of expression and resistance to the "metropolitan" (France) dominant culture.

As we learn to read, interpret, and critique films, we will also do some comparative work with U.S. films. Some of the goals of the course are:


The class will meet twice a week. Excerpts from films will be shown in class, but the complete films will be shown outside of class. Each film will have to be seen before coming to class. Students can view them as a group on Sunday evenings or individually through the Media Services reserve (4th floor of the Humanities building). Occasionally, questionnaires will be distributed before the viewing of the film, to help with the comprehension of specific cultural signs or to focus on specific concepts, genres, and themes.

Each film will be supplemented by critical and/or theoretical articles.

Occasionally, short films will be shown in their entirety in class and discussion will be pursued during the lunch hour at the cafeteria. You will always be notified in advance.

Each class will start with a minute paper either on the films to be seen or the material to be read.

This course has a writing component. It is expected that a short writing report will be handed weekly. In addition there will be about 5 papers (4-6 pages) throughout the semester, an oral presentation, and an academic journal to be kept regularly. A writing assistant, Stephanie Ziebell, will be helping you with the writing process.

There are no textbooks for this class. Articles will be placed on electronic reserve and accessible by traditional reserve.

Communication will often take place by e-mail. There will be a class list available for discussion outside of the classroom.



Participation: 50% (including oral presentation and journal)

Essays: 50%

Please note that NO "Incomplete" grade will be given.


September 1, 2000: Introduction to the course.

Discussion of "culture", "identity", and films.

Please note that we will schedule a viewing of the film Chocolat by Claire Denis (time and place to be decided during the first meeting).

Thursday September 7: Discussion of Chocolat, Claire Denis, 1990.

Read " Introduction" to Key Concepts in Cultural Theory, ed. By Andrew Edgar and Peter Sedgwick. London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

William A. Vincent "The Unreal But Visible Line: Difference and Desire for the Other in Chocolat". With Open Eyes: Women and African Cinema, ed. Kenneth W. Harrow. Atlanta: Matatu, 19: 125-132.


Tuesday September 12: Discussion of Birth of a Nation. D.W. Griffith 1915.

Everett Carter, "Cultural History Written in Lightning: The Significance of The Birth of a Nation 1915." Hollywood as Historian: American Film in a Cultural Context, ed. Peter C. Rollins. The University Press of Kentucky, 1983: 9-19.

Gerald Mast, "The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance,". A Short History of the Movies, 3rd edition. The University of Chicago Press, 1971, 1976, 1981: 59-65.

Margaret Russell," Race and the Dominant Gaze: Narratives of Law and Inequality in Popular Film," Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, ed. Richard Delgado. Philadelphia: Temple U.P., 1995: 56-63.


Thursday, September 14: Maxim Simcovitch, "The Impact of Griffith's Birth of a Nation on the Modern Ku Klux Klan." Celluloid Power: Social Film Criticism from The Birth of a Nation to Judgment at Nuremberg. Ed. David Platt. Metuchen: The Scarecrow press, 1992: 72-82.

David Bogle," The Brutal Black Buck and The Birth of a Nation," Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. New York: The Viking Press, 1983: 10-19.

Derrick Bell. "Racial realism -- After We're Gone: Prudent Speculations on America in a Post-Racial Epoch." Critical Race Theory:. 2-8.

Michael Olivas, "The Chronicles, My Grandfather's Stories, and Immigration Law: The Slave Traders Chronicle as Racial History." Critical Race Theory : 9-20.

Tuesday, September 19: Discussion of La Marseillaise. Jean Renoir, 1936

Pierre Sorlin, " The French Revolution," The Film in History: Restaging the Past. Barnes and Nobles Books, 1980.

Excerpts from Christophe Faulkner, The social cinema of Jean Renoir, Princeton University Press, 1986.

Thursday, September 21: Eugen Weber, "Who Sang the Marseillaise," My France. Politics, Culture, Myth. Cambridge, mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard U. P., 1991: 92-102.

Role of national symbols.

Anne McClintock, " 'No Longer in a Future Heaven': Gender, race, and Nationalism," Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives, Eds Anne McClintock, Aamir Mufti, and Ella Shohat, University of Minnesota Press, 1997: 89-112.


Tuesday, September 26: Discussion of Xala, Sembene Ousmane, 1973.

Françoise Pfaff, "Three faces of Africa: Women in Xala," Jump Cut, 27, 1977.

Excerpts from Keita, The Heritage of the Griot, and Names Live Nowhere.

Teshome Gabriel, "Interview with Ousmane Sembene," Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetics of Liberation. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982: 111-16.

Laura Mulvey, "Xala, Ousmane Sembene, 1976: The Carapace That Failed,' Third Text, 16/17, Autumn/Winter 1991.

Ousmane Sembene, "Filmmakers have a great responsibility to our people,".The Cineaste Interviews: On the Arts and Politics of the Cinema. Dan Georgakas, Lenny Rubenstein. Chicago: Lake View Press, 1983: 41-52.

Thursday, September 28: Fredric Jameson, " Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism," Social Text 15, fall 1986: 65-88.

Aijaz Ahmad, "Jameson's Rhetoric of Otherness and the 'National Allegory'," Social Text 17, Fall 1987: 3-28.

Essay 1


Tuesday, October 3: The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966.

The French-Algerian War

Chronology of the French presence in Algeria passed in class.

Frantz Fanon, "Algeria Unveiled," Studies in a Dying Colonialism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1965. Chapter 1.

Malek Alloula. Chapter One in The Colonial Harem. University of Minnesota Press, 1986.

Frantz Fanon, "On National Culture," Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory, ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman, NY; Columbia U Press, 1994: 36-52.

Homi Bhabha, "Remembering Fanon: Self, psyche and the Colonial Condition," Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: 112-123.

Thursday, October 5: Rita A. Faulkner, "Assia Djebar, Frantz Fanon, Women, Veils, and Land." World Literature Today,, 1997: 847-55.

Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, " The Third Worldist Film," Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media. Routledge, 1994: 248-290.

Excerpts of Rear Window: Gillo Pontecorvo: Dictatorship of Truth. Presented by Edward Saïd. Director: Oliver Curtis, Channel Four.

Interview with Pontecorvo. Salinas, Franco. Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers. NY: Scribner, 1973.

Excerpts from Algeria, Women at War. Formation Film Productions, Channel Four.


Tuesday, October 10: Discussion of The 400 Blows, François Truffaut, 1959.

Antoine de Baecque on Truffaut (excerpts from his biography).

Emma Wilson, "Introduction: Cinema in the First Person,"French Cinema since 1950. Personal Histories. Lanha m: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1999: 13-32.

Thursday, October 12: Richard Grenier, "The 'Auteur' Cult: Truffaut and What France's Nouvelle Vague Was All About,"Capturing the Culture: Film, Art, and Politics, Wahington D.c.: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1991: 205-21.

Essay 2

Tuesday, October 17: Discussion of Wend Kuuni by Gaston Kabore, 1982, The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun by Djibril Mambety Diop, 1999.

Manthia Diawara, " African Cinema Today," Framework, 37, 1989: 110-28

Manthia Diawara, "Oral Literature and African Film: Narratology in Wend Kuuni,"Questions of Third Cinema, Ed. Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, 199-211.

Thursday, October 19: Theshome Gabriel, " Film and Ideology in Africa," Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetics of Liberation, Ann Arbor: Michigan U. Press, 1982: 74-93

Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, "African Cinema: Solidarity and Difference," Questions of Third Cinema, : 195-98.

Tuesday, October 24: Discussion of Sugar-Cane Alley, Euzhan Palcy, 1983.

Alain Ménil, "Rue Cases-Nègres or the Antilles from the Inside," Ex-Iles: Essays on Caribbean Cinema, ed. Mbye Cham

June Givanni, "Interview with Euzhan Palcy," Ex-Iles: 286-307.

Frantz Fanon, Black Mask, White Skin, Chapter 1. NY: Grove Press, 1968.


Tuesday, October 31: Discussion of The Imitation of Life, 1959, AND 1934

Lucie Fisher, " Three-Way Mirror: Imitation of Life", in The Imitation of Life: 3-28

Bell hooks, "The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators," Black American Cinema: Aesthetics and Spectatorship, ed. Manthia Diawara. NY: Routledge, 1993: 288-302.

Essay 3

Thursday, November 2: Discussion of the two versions of The Imitation of Life

Jeremy Butler, "Imitation of Life (1934 and 1959): Style and the Domestic Melodrama," Imitation of Life. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1991: 289-301.

Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, " Imitation(s) of Life: The Black Woman's Double Determination as Troubling Other,"Imitation of Life: 325-335.

Donald Bogle: "Imitation of Life: Mother Knows Best." In Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, 57-62.

Tuesday, November 7: Discussion of Daughters of the Dust (1992) and Illusions (1983) by Julie Dash.

Toni Cade Bambara, "Reading the Signs, Empowering the Eye: Daughters of the Dust and the Black Independent cinema Movement," Black American Cinema, ed. Manthia Diawara. NY: Routledge, 1993.

Julie Dash, "Making Daughters of the Dust," in Daughters of the Dust, NY: The New Press, 1992: 1-26.

"Dialogue Between bell hooks and Julie Dash," Daughters of the Dust: 27-67.

Karen Alexander, " Julie Dash: Daughters of the Dust and a Black Aesthetic," Women and Film, A Sight and Sound Reader: 224-31.

Thursday, November 9: Stuart Hall, "The Local and the Global: Globalization and Ethnicity," Dangerous Liaisons: 173-187.

Robert Stam, "Multiculturalism and the Neo-Conservatives," Dangerous Liaisons,: 188-203.

John durham peters, "Exile, Nomadism, and Diaspora," Home, exile, Homeland: Film, Media, and the Politics of Place, ed. Hamid Naficy, NY, Routledge, 1999: 17-41.

Tuesday, November 14: Discussion of Hiroshima Mon Amour, Marguerite Duras, 1959.

Rebecca Pauly, " Hiroshima mon amour," The Transparent Illusion: 363-74.

Emma Wilson, " Histories I; trauma," French Cinema since 1950: Rowman and littlefield Pubs, 1999: 83-101.

Essay 4

Thursday, November 16: Continuation of discussion on Hiroshima mon amour

Kwame Anthony Appiah, "Is the 'Post-' in 'Postcolonial' the 'Post' in 'Postmodern?" Dangerous Liaisons: 420-444.

Tuesday, November 21: Discussion of La haine, Mathieu Kassowitz, 1996.

Robert M. Webster, "Notes on French Cinema, Colonialism, Immigration, and Race Relations," Contemporary French Civilization: 304-11.

Shama, Sanjay and Ashwain Shama, "'So far so good…' La Haine and the Poetics of the Everyday," Theory, Culture, and Society 17, 3 (2000): 103-116.

Tuesday, November 28: Discussion on Mathieu Kassowitz's films and Spike Lee's films. You must have seen Do the Right Thing, 1990.

Houston A. Baker, "Spike Lee and the Commerce of Culture," Black American Cinema: 154- 75.

Emma Wilson, "Paris: City of Light," French Cinema Since 1950: 121-36.


Thursday, November 30: Discussion of James Baldwyn, "Encounter on the Seine: Black Meets Brown", "Equal in Paris,". Notes of a Native Son, Boston: beacon Press, 1955.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. "The Welcome Table: James Baldwyn in Exile," Exile and Creativity: Signposts, Travelers, Outsiders, Backward Glances, ed. Susan Suleiman, Duke University press, 1996: 305-20.

Tuesday, December 5: Discussion of La Noire de… Ousmane Sembene, 1966.

Françoise Pfaff, "Black Girl (1966): From Book to Film," The Cinema of Sembene Ousmane. A Pioneer of African Film. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984: 113-25.

Teshome Gabriel, "Towards a Critical Theory of Third World Films," Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: 340-58.

Ian F. Haney Lopez, "White by Law," Critical Race Theory: 542-50.

Essay 5

Thursday, December 7: Discussion of Racism Explained to My Daughter by Tahar Ben Jelloun (New York: The new Press, 1999).

Tuesday, December 12: Discussion of Chacun cherche son chat, Cedric Klapisch, 1997.

Thomas Ross, "Innocence and Affirmative Action," Critical Race Theory: 551-63.

Stephanie M. Wildman with Adrienne D. Davis, "language and Silence: Making Systems of privilege Visible," Critical Race Theory: 573-81.

Thursday, December 14: Conclusion of the course.