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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : European Languages and Cultures - French

Undergraduate Course: Intimacy, Power, Identity: The Films of Claire Denis (Ordinary) (ELCF09043)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis option examines key works by Claire Denis, a celebrated French filmmaker whose cinema responds to the human capacities for violence and intimacy, exploitation and care. Denis is particularly attentive to those who exist at the edge of sites of political inclusion, such as migrants, colonised people, or prisoners. She is perhaps best known for her examination of colonialism and its afterlives. Yet in addition to representing structures of power and domination, her films also focus on questions of love, community, and care. In her exploration of the paradoxes of contemporary human existence, Denis tends to reject linear narratives in favour of fragmented or mosaic narrative forms, and her films at times defy clear understanding, remaining open to multiple interpretations. Her films are visually arresting and richly sensual, appealing to the viewer's five senses and bringing tactile, embodied experience to representation. Thus, her work is complex, challenging, highly compelling and innovative both thematically and stylistically.

In this course, we will examine the relationships between the films' politically complex and extreme themes and their varied and experimental style. Weekly topics offer a range of theoretical frameworks through which to approach her films (such as the colonial and the postcolonial, affect and extremity, and intimacy and ethics). The course places emphasis on film analysis, and tutorial discussions will focus on how Denis's filmic style and her formal techniques operate in dialogue with the films' thematic concerns. Thus, through the weekly critical readings and tutorial activities (plenary discussions and film sequence analysis), the course highlights connections between Denis's films and contemporary thought in order to demonstrate the force and originality of her work.

The course is taught and assessed in French.
Course description The course introduces students to a range of key films by the celebrated French filmmaker Claire Denis (b. 1946). Five films are presented across ten weekly tutorials, and each film is presented via a range of critical perspectives. The course focuses on the political and ethical themes addressed in Denis's work (the postcolonial; social exclusion and oppression; desire and intimacy; extremity and violence) and highlights the ways in which these themes align with debates in contemporary film and critical theory.
The course highlights connections between Denis's films and contemporary theory and thought and positions her work within wider (primarily French and Francophone) intellectual and cinematic lineages. A topic on ethics and intimacy focuses on her dialogues with the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy; a topic on violence and excess positions Denis in the context of theorisations of the New French Extremity; and a topic on the (post)colonial invites students to view Denis's films via the biopolitical thought of Michel Foucault and Achille Mbembe. Thus, through readings and class discussions, students will develop a nuanced and theoretically -informed approach to Denis's work and acquire understanding of a range of contemporary theoretical and philosophical contexts in the French and Francophone world. Students will acquire sophisticated formal analysis skills via sequence analysis discussions in class. These critical frameworks and films analysis skills will enable students to develop strong and ambitious readings of the films.

The course features five prescribed films. Each film will be studied over the course of two seminars, enabling an in-depth and multi-faceted approach to and understanding of Denis's complex work. One piece of prescribed secondary reading will be set for each tutorial. The two tutorials on each film offer different approaches within the same theme, thus exposing students to a range of ideas while providing extensive class time for discussion of the primary works and critical frameworks. The course features a range of thematic approaches the postcolonial; biopolitics; affect; ethics informed and supported by set readings (including scholarship on Denis). These critical perspectives will enable students to gain a strong sense of the political and ethical concerns of Denis's work. The course places a strong emphasis on formal analysis; students will develop film analysis skills via sequence analysis sessions and group discussions in each tutorial, and via the course assessment and feedback regime.

The option is taught in French. The option is taught in ten weekly two-hour seminars over the course of the semester. As course organiser I will provide weekly discussion questions. Students will be encouraged to meet in advance of class in autonomous learning groups to discuss the set films and weekly discussion questions. At the beginning of each seminar, I will give a short presentation on the topic, introducing key ideas for class discussion. The seminars will consist of student oral presentations, plenary discussions, and group work sessions (film sequence analysis).

On completion of this course students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of a range of film and critical theories; develop sophisticated and original ideas about the primary films; demonstrate a high level of written and spoken expression; demonstrate scholarly research skills; develop clear, coherent arguments; and offer analyses of set films informed by secondary reading, demonstrating an awareness of the complexity and challenges of the films they are studying.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: French 2 Language (ELCF08013) AND French 2 Literature and Culture (ELCF08012)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesIn order to be eligible to take 4th Year Options, Visiting Students should have the equivalent of at least two years of study at University level of the appropriate language(s) and culture(s).
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate critical understanding of a range of concepts and theories in contemporary film scholarship and contemporary French and Francophone thought.
  2. Analyse film through a range of critical lenses: postcolonial theory, ethical philosophy, and biopolitical thought.
  3. Develop spoken communication and presentation skills in French on specialised topics, developed by communicating with peers and tutor, offering and receiving feedback in tutorial discussions and on presentations, to be conducted in French.
  4. Exercise autonomy and initiative in group and independent work, including demonstrating research autonomy and skills, engaging with and building on formative feedback on mid-term assignment.
  5. Articulate complex ideas in writing, with excellent written expression
Reading List
Essential films (indicative)

Denis, Claire, J'ai pas sommeil (France, 1994)
- Trouble Every Day (France, 2001)
- L'Intrus (France, 2004)
- 35 rhums (France, 2008)
- White Material (France, 2009)
- Les Salauds (France, 2013)
- High Life (France, 2018)

Essential Reading
- Asibong, Andrew 'Claire Denis's Flickering Spaces of Hospitality', in L'Esprit Createur, Vol. 51, Issue 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 154-67
- Fanon, Frantz, 'L'expérience vécue du Noir', Peau noire, masques blancs, (Paris: Seuil, 1952), pp. 90-116
- Foucault, Michel, Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison (Paris: Gallimard, 1975)
- L'Histoire de la sexualité I: La volonté de savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1976)
- Fraser, Nancy, 'Contradictions of Capital and Care', in New Left Review, 100 (July/August 2016), pp. 99-117
- Galt, Rosalind, 'Claire Denis and the World Cinema of Refusal', in SubStance, 2014, Vol. 43, No. 1, Issue 133: French Cinema and the Crises of Globalization (2014), pp. 96-108
- 'Claire Denis's Capitalist Bastards', Studies in French Cinema, 15:3, September 2015, pp. 275-93
- Ince, Kate, The Body and the Screen: Female Subjectivities in Contemporary Women's Cinema (London: Bloomsbury, 2017)
- Lübecker, Nikolaj, The Feel-Bad Film (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015)
- Marks, Laura, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002)
- Mbembe, Achille, 'Nécropolitique', in Raisons politiques, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2006, pp. 29-60.
- McMahon, Laura, Cinema and Contact: The Withdrawal of Touch in Nancy, Bresson, Duras and Denis (Oxford: Legenda, 2012)
- 'Beyond the Human Body: Claire Denis's Ecologies', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media 7 (Summer 2014) «»
- 'Rhythms of Relationality: Denis and Dance' in The Films of Claire Denis: Intimacy on the Border, ed. by Marjorie Vecchio (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2014)
- Ngai, Sianne, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005)
- Palmer, Tim, 'Style and Sensation in the Contemporary French Cinema of the Body', in Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 58, Issue 3 (Fall 2006), pp. 22-32
- Ruhe, Cornelia, 'Beyond Post-Colonialism? From Chocolat to White Material', in The Films of Claire Denis: Intimacy on the Border, ed. by Marjorie Vecchio (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014), pp. 111¿23
- White, Patricia, 'Pink Material: White womanhood and the colonial imaginary of world cinema authorship', in The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender, ed. by Kristin Lené Hole, Dijana Jelaca, E. Ann Kaplan and Patrice Petro, (London: Routledge, 2016), pp. 215-26

Recommended Reading
- Chauvin, Jean-Sébastien, and Daney, Serge, 'Entretien: 'L'irrémédiable. Dialogue avec Claire Denis' in Cahiers du cinéma, 691, (July/August 2013), pp. 82-8
- Galt, Rosalind and Schoonover, Karl, Queer Cinema in the World (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2016)
- Hayward, Susan, 'Claire Denis's "Post-colonial" Films and Desiring Bodies', in L'Esprit Créateur, Vol. 42, Issue 3 (2002), p.39-49.
- Wheatley, Catherine, 'La Famille Denis' in The Films of Claire Denis: Intimacy on the Border, ed. by Marjorie Vecchio, London: I.B. Tauris, 2014), pp. 63-76

Further Reading
- Agamben, Giorgio, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen, (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1998)
- Ahmed, Sara, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, (Durham, North Carolina and London: Duke University Press, 2006)
- Bataille, Georges L'Erotisme [1957] in Oeuvres complètes, Tome 10 (Paris: Gallimard, 1987) pp. 12-270
- Les Larmes d'Eros [1961] in ouvres complètes, Tome 10 (Paris: Gallimard, 1987), pp. 575-663
- Bhabha, Homi, The Location of Culture (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 1994)
- Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London: Routledge, 1990)
- Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence (London and New York: Verso, 2006)
- Durham, Scott, 'The Center of the World is Everywhere': 'Bamako and the Scene of the Political', World Picture Journal, Obvious, Autumn 2008, «»
- Fanon, Frantz, Peau noire, masques blancs (Paris: Seuil, 1952)
- Faulkner, William, Sanctuary (New York: Jonathan Cape, 1931)
- Gustafsson, Henrik, 'Points of Flight, Lines of Fracture: Claire Denis's Uncanny Landscape' in The Films of Claire Denis: Intimacy on the Border, ed. by Marjorie Vecchio, pp. 203-13
- Jameson, Frederic, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London & New York: Verso, 2005)
- Kristeva, Julia, Pouvoirs de l'horreur. Essai sur l'abjection (Paris: Seuil, 1980)
- de Lauretis, Teresa, 'Queer Texts, Bad Habits, and the Issue of a Future', in GLQ, Vol. 17, Issue 2-3 (2011), pp. 243-63
- Levinas, Emmanuel, Totalité et infini: Essai sur l'extériorité [1961] (The Hague: Kluwer Academic: 1971)
- Morgan, Janice, 'The Spatial Politics of Racial and Cultural Identity in Claire Denis' 'Chocolat', 'in Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Vol. 20, Issue 2 (2003), pp. 145-53
- O'Shaughnessy, Martin, 'Post-1995 French cinema: Return of the social, return of the political?', 'Modern & Contemporary France, Vol. 11, Issue 2 (2003), pp. 189-203
- Williams, James S., 'Romancing the Father in Claire Denis's '35 rhums', in Film Quarterly, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Winter 2009), pp. 44-50.
- 'Beyond the Other: Grafting Relations in the Films of Claire Denis', in The Films of Claire Denis: Intimacy on the Border, ed. by Marjorie Vecchio, London: I.B. Tauris, 2014, pp. 91-110.
- Wilson, Emma, 'Love Me Tender: New Films from Claire Denis', Film Quarterly, Vol. 72, No. 4 (Summer 2019) pp. 18-28.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course will aid students in developing the following attributes and personal and professional skills:

Through the course's emphasis on verbal and written communication and guided autonomous study, students will develop:

Critical thinking and reading skills

Self-confidence and the desire to articulate informed opinions

The desire to engage in autonomous work to fulfill personal potential

Through the course's political and global focus, students will develop:

The desire to learn for positive change and to fulfill personal potential

A passion to engage locally and globally

Upon completing the course, students will be empowered as:

Creative problem solvers and researchers

Critical and reflective thinkers

Effective and influential contributors

Skilled communicators
Course organiserDr Katie Pleming
Course secretaryMr Iain Harrison
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