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FR 3124: Blindness and Vision in French Culture

Teaching: Terms 1 and 2

Convenor: Dr Hannah Thompson


Formative Coursework (0%): a critical review of 1,000-1,500 words of one of the primary or secondary texts we are studying.

Summative Coursework (30%): an essay of 2,000-2,500 words discussing at least two works we have studied.

Exam: (70%): answer two essay questions in two hours.


The course uses a broadly Disability Studies inflected approach to explore how the interrelated concepts of blindness and vision are represented in French fiction, film, art and theory in order to understand why sightedness and blindness are such important elements in French culture and to explore what is at stake in their representation. Questions discussed will include: How is blindness depicted in French culture? What do these depictions tell us about French attitudes to key concepts such as blindness, vision, appearance, normality, beauty and the gaze? Is seeing or not seeing gendered in any way? Do words and images relate to blindness differently? What happens when the blind or the partially blind speak for themselves? What is at stake in the widespread use of blindness as a metaphor?

Set Texts include:

Fred Vargas, L’homme aux cercles bleus (1991) / The Chalk Circle Man trans by Sian Reynolds 2010

André Gide, La symphonie pastorale (1919) / The Pastoral Symphony

Leos Carax, Les amants du pont neuf / The Lovers on the Bridge(1990)

Hervé Guibert, Des aveugles (1985) / Blindsight (trans by James Kirkup 1996)

Thérèse-Adèle Husson, ‘Reflections: The Life and Writings of a Young Blind Girl in Post-Revolutionary France bilingual edition ed and trans by Cathy Kudlick and Zina Weygand’ available in English and French: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=acls;idno=heb90004.0001.001

Sophie Calle, Les Aveugles (1986): series of paintings



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