I teach courses on French literature, history, and culture, as well as courses on gender & literature more broadly.
I regularly teach the interdisciplinary humanities courses described below as part of my university’s general education requirements.
“Parisian Views: Spectacle, Reality, and the Invention of Mass Culture” is an exploration of the radical changes in aesthetic sensibilities that transformed nineteenth-century Paris and laid the groundwork for contemporary modes of entertainment. One of the themes of the class is that everything you think comes from twentieth-century America actually has its origin in nineteenth-century Paris—from consumer culture to cinema. Since we’re in New York City, we use Manhattan as our urban playground to explore ideas introduced in class. We become flâneurs as we read Baudelaire and try to capture the crowd the way that Zola did. In addition to journaling online, we keep a class Instagram account, using photography to explore trends in the nineteenth-century visual arts—from photography to painting. During the Spring 2020 semester, when we were hit with the Covid-19 pandemic, my students created a website to take the place of the photo exhibit that usually serves as a capstone to the semester.
“France & Its Others.” While the notion of a cultural “melting pot” is central to American society, French society has been structured around a distinctly French notion of universalism: the idea that there are core universal values that must supersede those of any minority subculture. Thus, although Americans regularly embrace multiple identifications–as African-Americans, or Jewish Americans, for example–in France that double alliance is largely experienced as a tension. This class traces the roots of that tension by examining ways that otherness has inspired and troubled the French imagination through literary, historical and philosophical readings by major French writers from the 1500s to the present day. From Montaigne’s cannibals to the noble savages of Enlightenment texts, from Zola’s “J’accuse!” to the story of Babar, from the female other to the other as Jew to the other as Jewish female, we explore the myriad ways through which France’s imagined others serve as manifestations of a cultural fascination with and anxiety about difference in its many forms. As we analyze the various intellectual conflicts that have arisen from the quest to understand what is deemed different, foreign, exotic or strange, we also trace a struggle to define and circumscribe notions of French identity, selfhood and authority.
“Spoiler Alert: Endings, Beginnings, and the Unwritten Rules of Modern Storytelling.” This class explores modern storytelling across genres, from the novel to flash fiction, from the graphic novel to the podcast. Students will learn to engage deeply with these diverse forms as texts to be critically analyzed, and we will study the way that stories are both products of culture and determined by them. What kinds of stories are we allowed to tell, and who is allowed to tell them? What determines a “happy ending” and how can a story be controversial? What is involved in remaking a classic? How do stories help us to see ourselves? How have we moved away from endings, as a culture, and towards the serial, and what is lost and gained in this movement? What new genres of storytelling have emerged in recent decades, and how can we understand their relationship to traditional literary forms? The class is about the need for stories and how texts—literary and otherwise—generate meaning. In addition to studying the underpinnings of storytelling, we’ll pay attention to the ways we consume stories: whether by reading, watching episode by episode, or binging in one gluttonous weekend. Becoming aware of our own practices will help us think about our relationships with the stories we most connect to. The class thus aims to be as much an introduction to literary and textual study as an exploration of what it means to be human in an ever-changing world.
Selected other courses:
Gender & Literature
The Nineteenth-Century French Novel