L’amour non-conventionnel : fictions et théories du 20ème siècle

How does one define an amorous relationship and how long can one stay continuously happy in such a relationship? What happens when one’s private desire runs counter to the dynamic of the couple or to the “morally acceptable”?

From Freud’s view on the “polymorphous perversity” of infantile sexuality to French sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of postmodern “liquid love,” passing through Sartre’s famous claim, “L’enfer, c’est les autres,” the twentieth-century French literature and philosophy saw a rich exploration of “love” the practice of which defies or redefines some conventional presumptions, including but not limited to heterosexuality, marriage, fidelity and reproduction.

This course explores the different configurations of amorous (erotic) relations in novels and stories from the Golden Twenties (Les Années folles) to the 2000s. We will focus on the uncompromised presence of sensuous quest, dream, liberty, memory, obsession and its threat to “normal” relationships.

We will study, on the one hand, how the absence of conformism to existing moral and legal rules is paralleled by a series of novelistic inventions, and on the other hand, how new ideas tossed around in various intellectual currents (surrealism, Existentialism, May 68 and the sexual revolution, critique of consumerism, etc.) are reflected in the choice and behavior of our protagonists/authors.

Authors include Colette, Bataille, Breton, Sartre, Beauvoir, Vian, Duras, Guibert, Ernaux, and Toussaint. Discussions of theoretic texts (Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Girard, Badiou) as well as a few contemporary films (Kechiche, Guiraudie) will complement these primary texts.