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Unit information: Francophone Belgian Culture: From Symbolism to bande dessinée in 2018/19

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Unit name Francophone Belgian Culture: From Symbolism to bande dessinée
Unit code FREN20064
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Paul Earlie
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Drawing on the specialist knowledge and professional experience of a new member of staff, this unit will expand departmental provision in the teaching of French-speaking cultures beyond the Hexagon in exploring the problematic test case of francophone Belgian literature and culture. It will build on approaches from Year 1 units (‘Reading Literary and Visual Cultures’) and conceptual frameworks encountered by single honours students in ‘Global French’, while also looking forward to later units in Year 4 such as ‘Francophone Identities and the Visual Arts’. It is designed to respond to student demand for a greater diversity of textual forms (literary, visual, filmic) and genres (experimental drama, crime fiction, bande dessinée, documentary film), all of which share a common concern for the realities and paradoxes of Belgian identity.

This unit will also make use of an online multimedia discussion group, in French and assessed formatively, as a way of stimulating blended dialogic learning. In some years, this discussion may be held in tandem with students in Belgium taking the introductory unit ‘Histoire de la littérature belge’ [History of Belgian Literature] at the Université libre de Bruxelles, which will provide students with a valuable ‘internal’ perspective on the formation of a national literary canon as well as an awareness of different methodological approaches to the study of literature (sociological, historiographic) which have been influenced by particular national and cultural contexts.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will have demonstrated:

  1. a detailed understanding (appropriate to level I) of the evolution of francophone Belgian literature and culture from the end of the nineteenth century to the present;

2. an awareness of the respective merits and limitations of the different critical approaches (formalist, historicist, postcolonial, etc.);

3. an ability to analyse the rhetorical structures of a range of cultural forms and genres appropriate to level I;

4. an ability to relate the texts studied to their appropriate historical, political, sociological and cultural contexts;

Teaching details

1 weekly lecture

1 weekly seminar

Assessment Details

1 x oral commentary presentation (25%) testing ILO 3

1 x 2-hour exam (75%) testing ILOs 1, 2 and 4.

Reading and References

Aubert, Nathalie, Pierre-Philippe Fraiture, and Patrick McGuinness, eds, From Art Nouveau to Surrealism: Belgian Modernity in the Making (Oxford: Legenda, 2007)

Bainbrigge, Susan, Culture and Identity in Belgian Francophone Writing: Dialgue, Diversity and Displacement (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2008).

Denis, Benoît andKlinkenberg, Jean-Marie, La littérature belge: Précis d'histoire sociale (Brussels : Espace Nord, 2014).

Mallinson, Vernon, Modern Belgian Literature 1830-1960 (London: Heinemann, 1966)