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FREN4207 - Screen Cities: Representing the Margins of Paris, 1830-2005

Value: 0.5 course units
Dr Jann Matlock
Teaching structure:
one 3-hour desk examination (100%).

Module Description:

This module will consider the representation of the margins and marginals of Paris in a series of novelistic works, essays, paintings, photographs and films. Through reading Eugène Sue, we shall consider the novelistic attempt, in July Monarchy France, to give Paris its ‘total’ history. Our readings of the Zola's La Curee will complicate our models for observation in the city. Accounts of popular panoramic spectacles, Manet’s salon painting, and photographic projects in the nineteenth century will help us theorise ways that Paris maps its dangers. The representations of the ruins of Paris after the Siege and Commune, Atget’s photographs of a ghostly Paris, and Leroux’s novel about the opera’s haunting will let us theorise for Paris what Anthony Vidler has called the ‘architectures of the uncanny’. We shall ask how film of the pre-WWII period recycles nineteenth-century fantasies of ‘classes dangereuses’ and how the post-WWII cinema rethinks these fantasies. Finally, a series of documentary and fiction films about conspiracies, dangerous politics, and out-of-control women should give us a context for thinking about how the cinema since the 1960s has confronted urban crises.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

  • Eugène Sue, Les Mystères de Paris (‘Bouquins’, ed. Robert Laffont).
  • Emile Zola, La Curée (Folio Edition is the best choice)
  • Gaston Leroux, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (Livre de poche version).

Note: please read all of Les Mystères de Paris BEFORE classes start. You should also read a good history of Paris (e.g. Colin Jones, Patrice Higonnet, Eric Hazan, Bernard Marchand) and/or an urban history of Paris (e.g., Norma Evenson, Anthony Sutcliffe).

Film screenings:

  • Louis Feuillade, Fantômas (1913-1914).
  • Dimitri Kirsanoff, Ménilmontant (1926) (will not be examined in 2013-2014).
  • Alberto Cavalcanti, Rien que les heures (1926).
  • Jean Renoir, Nana (1926).
  • Raymond Bernard, Les Misérables (1934).
  • Jacques Becker, Casque d'or (1952)
  • Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, Chronique d’un été (1961).
  • Jacques Rivette, Le Pont du nord (1981).
  • Claire Denis, J'ai pas sommeil(1994)
  • Raul Ruiz, Les Mystères de Lisbonne (2010)
  • Engrenages (production Canal Plus), Season 3 (2010)

All films will be available from the Department’s film collection.

Students will also be expected to study a selection of paintings by Edouard Manet,
and a selection of Paris photography from the 1850s to the 1910s.