L’Algérie au miroir de la fiction (1985-2020)

This course explores a wide swathe of French-language Algerian cultural productions–including novels, memoir, film (both feature and documentary), and other visual arts–with particular attention to the question of the representation of the past, its recollection, its traces, its residues, and the way it lives on in a variety of possible futures. In other words, in this course, in the year that celebrates 60 years of Algerian independence, we will seek to engage with the question of Algeria’s “afterlives”.

Difficult to render in French, the word “afterlives” is the English translation of an idea developed by Aby Warburg and originally rendered in German as “nachleben” (literally, “after lives”). This idea refers to the “multilayered dynamics of presence and absence, anticipation and retrospection, past and present” (as defined by Malek Tamm, in his introduction to Afterlife of Events,). Our reading practices will thus be informed by Warburg’s ideas, but also by related concepts such as Jan Assmann’s mnemohistoire, which holds that present is “haunted” by the past and the past is “modelled, invented, reinvented, and reconstructed by the present” (Tamm); Jacques Derrida’s notion of hauntologie; and Pierre Nora’s polemical work on les lieux de mémoire.

Students need not be familiar in these ideas prior to enrolling in the class. Through short readings and discussions, the conceptual framework of “afterlives” will be developed and problematized over the course of our sessions. Secondary reading will be kept light enough to allow students to focus their energies on the primary materials of the course.

In addition to exposing participants to a range of cultural texts, including lesser-known and often under-studied novels and films, the goal of the seminar is to provide a space in which to hone practices of close textual analysis, historicized interpretation, and theoretical engagement.


  • Assia Djebar, L’Amour, la fantasia (novel)
  • Maïssa Bey, Surtout ne te retourne pas (novel)
  • Leïla Sebbar, Une enfance juive en méditerranée musulmane (short-form memoir)
  • Safinez Bousbia, El gusto (documentary film)
  • Zahia Rahmani, « Musulman »: roman (novel)
  • Marc Garanger, Femmes algériennes 1960 (photo album)
  • Leïla Sebbar, « La photo d’identité » (short story)
  • Joseph Andras, De nos frères blessés (novel)
  • Michael Haneke, Caché (feature film)
  • Kamel Daoud, Meursault, contre-enquête (novel)