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19th-Century Literature and Culture

Intensive study of a single major author of the romantic or postromantic period. The subject changes from year to year among writers in the different literary genres.

FREN 489. 19th-Century Literature and Culture: Borders/Frontières

TTh 11am-12:15pm; Graham Memorial 212. Prof. Jessica Tanner (

This course examines how anxieties about borders shape—and are shaped by—19th-century French literature and culture, with an emphasis on questions of national identity, colonialism, and immigration; the borders of the individual/the self and the community; gender boundaries and the policing of sex and sexuality; racial boundaries and racism; class boundaries, class revolts, barricades, and social mobility; urbanization and the shifting borders of the city; vampirism and the boundary between life and death; and the fantastic and the boundaries between the real and the supernatural. Through the study of 19th-century novels, short stories, plays, poems, visual art, newspapers, treatises, and popular culture, complemented by readings in contemporary criticism and theory, we will consider how different objects and forms of representation reflect efforts to impose order—or embrace disorder—in a century of rapid change and social and political upheaval. We will also explore how 19th-century border concerns might help us think through current debates about nationalism, immigration, globalization, and social inclusion—and more generally, how literary and cultural studies might inform how we understand and negotiate times of crisis. Authors may include Balzac, Gautier, Dumas, Sand, Tristan, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Zola, Rimbaud, Maupassant, Verne, Rachilde, Philippe, and/or Aziz; we will also read critical and theoretical texts by authors such as Marx, Foucault, Corbin, Rancière, Fanon, Césaire, Wynter, Malabou, Sharpe, Walia, Glover, and Vergès.

Course is primarily conducted in French and is open to both graduate and undergraduate students.

Prerequisites: FREN 300 and one of the following: FREN 255, 260, or 262.

Previously Offered:


This course looks at the ways in which prostitution and its regulation shaped 19th-century France and its fictions, with an emphasis on the evolving place of prostitution in modern Paris and its literary representations. Through the study of works by authors including Dumas fils, Baudelaire, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Huysmans, Goncourt, Zola, Maupassant, Philippe, Pougy, Aziz, and Despentes, along with paintings, historical documents, memoirs, treatises, and popular culture, we will explore how venal sex became the object of efforts to impose order in a time of rapid change and upheaval, both for administrators and for novelists and artists.

Our readings of 19th-century texts will be complemented by contemporary visual media (television, film, exhibitions) focused on prostitution from the period, as well as historical and theoretical works by Corbin, Reverzy, Foucault, and Rancière. We will also discuss current French debates about the legalization of prostitution, considering why the “prostitution problem” has surfaced at particular moments in French history—most notably alongside the intensification of anxieties about immigration, borders, and national identity. Course is conducted in French. Open to undergraduates (recommended preparation: at least one literature/culture course) and graduate students.

Requisites: Prerequisites, FREN 300 and one of the following: FREN 255260, or 262.