On the 14th of June 1940, German troops entered Paris ushering in a 4 year period of occupation, known as les années noires, which was to test not only French society, but also its much celebrated republican values. It brought with it the glory of the Résistance but also the shame of collaboration and the Holocaust. The Second World War may be long over but its memory shows no sign of becoming less relevant, with references to the wartime past peppering speeches and public discourse following the terrorist attacks of the 2010s, on the campaign trails of presidential elections and even in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In this module, we look at how key French experiences of the Occupation have become part of collective memory and national myth building, focusing, in particular, on how the official history and memory of this period has been constructed, manipulated and, even, abused in recent years. By looking to the past, and perhaps more importantly to the changing interpretation and understanding of this past, we will be able to better examine contemporary France and French identity.
French language and cultures: Advanced
|A||Semester 2 2023-24|
The module will:
Examine key aspects of the French experience of the war years, including the Résistance, collaboration and the Shoah;
Explain the evolving construction of the memory of the Occupation;
Discuss how this memory is used, manipulated and even abused;
Examine the many controversies surrounding the memories of this period;
Consider why events of the war years remain so important to French identity;
Analyse the link between the war time past and contemporary issues such as racism and antisemitism;
Compare the evolving treatment of these memories by historians and public figures;
Improve proficiency in written and spoken French.
By the end of the module, students will be able to:
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key facts related to the Occupation and its memory;
Critically evaluate a wide range of documents including: digital newspaper articles, speeches, documentaries, short stories, eyewitness accounts, letters and photographs;
Compare and contrast differing treatments of the memories of this period over time and/or by different groups;
Interpret and analyse primary and secondary sources;
Demonstrate independent study skills and pursue personal research on the topics discussed;
Formulate and justify arguments related to the subject matter;
Communicate in both spoken and written French with increased confidence and accuracy.
The topics covered might include:
The construction, collapse and rehabilitation of the Résistance myth
The enduring legacy of De Gaulle
The problematic memory of Maréchal Pétain
The experience of Collaboration
Holocaust denial in France: origins and contemporary forms
The experience of the Shoah in France
The Rafle du Vél d’hiv and its commemoration
The crimes against humanity trials of the 80s and 90s (Barbie, Papon etc)
3 one-hour seminars per week
Independent study in the form of preparation for class discussion is an essential part of students’ commitment
Particular emphasis is given to the development of analytical and critical skills through the study of authentic materials (i.e. resources in French for native speakers of French)
The module is taught and assessed in French.
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Formative assessment and feedback
Formative tasks done individually or in groups throughout the module
Feedback will include written comments and oral feedback during class discussions.
Summative assessment and feedback
Students will be given written feedback and marks for their work within the University mandated schedule.
A wide variety of sources ranging from both the war years to the contemporary period will be examined: speeches, newspaper articles, social media postings, literary texts, art and documentaries.
For example: students may examine extracts of key speeches (De Gaulle’s appel du 18 juin (1940), Malraux’s speech honouring the panthéonisation of Jean Moulin (1964), various presidents’ commemoration of the Rafle du Vel d’hiv (1995- present) etc), collaborationist posters, resistance poetry, documentaries (Nuit et Brouillard 1956), first-hand/literary accounts of the Shoah (Auschwitz et après, La Nuit), key legislative texts (Le premier statut des juifs 1940, la loi Gayssot 1990), social media outputs from contemporary politicians (Marine Le Pen, Macron) as well political campaigning material (Le Pen, Macron, Zemmour etc).