Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : European Languages and Cultures - French

Undergraduate Course: Picturing the Self: Contemporary French and Francophone Life Writing (ELCF10079)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores some of the main trends of French and Francophone life writing since the beginning of the twenty-first century, and evaluates in what ways these trends (and the authorial strategies associated with them) offer new perspectives on the traditional concerns of the literary genre of autobiography, reflecting the increasing gender and ethnic diversity apparent amongst contemporary authors of French and Francophone literature. Questions of personal identity will be at the centre of this course, with a particular focus on (ethnically) hybrid identities. The course centres on the role of images in contemporary French and Francophone life-writing in order to interrogate the tendency in such works to use images in diverse ways to explore the complexities of identity. Accordingly, key themes for study on the course include: intermedial interactions (especially between image and text), and their relation to the perception and representation of the self; technologies of the self, especially photography (analogue or digital) as a technology of self; language and identity formation, especially as these relate to gendered, translingual, or postcolonial identities; generic boundaries in contemporary French and Francophone literature.
Course description Who am I? How much have others made me who I am? What importance does where I come from have for my sense of self?
These are just some of the questions which we aim to explore in this course, which will be taught in French. The answers to these questions may often appear unknowable to those who ask them, and therefore we will also look at the strategies that the authors of our selected texts use to signal the difficulty and uncertainty that they face as they attempt to find answers. Often, our authors use innovative forms of presenting their lives and selfhoods in order to try to provide a picture of the complexity that surrounds their identity. Hence the popularity in recent self-writings in French of using photographs, or even audio recordings, alongside the textual narrative that we conventionally associate with autobiographical writing. These studies of the self are also studies in intermediality (relations between different art forms or mediums), as well as studies in migration and (post)colonial belonging.
The primary texts studied on this course also bear witness to major societal, historical and technological evolutions that are shaping twenty-first-century France and Francophone world. The set texts will be analysed both as individual works that are set in dialogue with the critical discourses of the fields of autobiography, photobiography, and life-writing studies, and in a comparative mode that allows primary texts to be evaluated alongside each other. This comparative approach allows for a focussed interrogation of the explicit or implicit claims of these works' authors in regard to the uniqueness of their narrated (and imaged) selves, and the texts that they produce.

The main focus of the student learning experience will be a weekly seminar, for which stimulus material and/or topics for discussion will be set in advance. Students will be expected to have read each primary text prior to the first seminar devoted to it, so that a high-quality seminar discussion can take place. Preparation for the seminars will also periodically include activities to be undertaken by Autonomous Learning Groups, which will arrange to meet outwith the seminar to carry out groupwork. The language of discussion in the seminars will be French. Primary texts will be the subject of assessed weekly class presentations by individual students, which must be given in French, but most of the seminar will be centred on workshop-based discussion.
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
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Show understanding both orally and in writing of the distinctive thematic and formal characteristics and preoccupations of a range of contemporary French and Francophone literary works belonging to the emerging genres of photobiography, life-writing or autofiction, as well as the capacity to relate these works to their broader intellectual and cultural contexts.
  2. Interpret and synthesise, both orally and in writing, information drawn from a variety of written sources, including the set primary texts, as well as critical and theoretical perspectives found in works of scholarly secondary literature.
  3. Articulate their insights into and analyses of these French-language primary texts and their contexts orally in French, demonstrating as they do so a satisfactory grasp of register, vocabulary and grammatical and syntactical structures in the target language.
  4. Analyse and evaluate literary texts and their visual content using appropriate scholarly methodologies for the study of intermedial cultural artefacts containing both a visual and a literary dimension.
  5. Construct coherent arguments which engage effectively with the sources and the relevant contexts, and present these with a high level of clarity in both oral and written form.
Reading List
Primary Sources (Essential)
(subject to change until the beginning of the semester)

Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes (Points, Seuil, 2014)

Hélène Cixous, Les Rêveries de la femme sauvage (Galilée, 2000)

Annie Ernaux, Les Années (Folio, Gallimard, 2010)

Nancy Huston, Nord perdu (Actes Sud, 1999)

Marie Ndiaye, Autoportrait en vert (Folio, Gallimard, 2006)

Denis Podalydès, Voix off (Folio, Gallimard, 2010)

Secondary Sources - Indicative Bibliography


Arribert-Narce, Fabien. Photobiographies: pour une écriture de notation de la vie (Roland Barthes, Denis Roche, Annie Ernaux). Paris: Honoré Champion, 2014

---, and Alain Ausoni (eds). L'Autobiographie entre autres. Ecrire la vie aujourd'hui. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013

Boyle, Claire. Consuming Autobiographies: Reading and Writing the Self in Post-war France. Oxford: Legenda, 2007

Edwards, Natalie, Amy L. Hubbell and Ann Miller (eds). Textual and Visual Selves. Photography, Film, and Comic Art in French Autobiography. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 2011

Gabara, Rachel. From Split to Screened Selves: French and Francophone Autobiography in the Third Person. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006

Guðmundsdóttir, Gunnthórunn. Borderlines: Autobiography and Fiction in Postmodern Life Writing. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003

Jordan, Shirley. 'Autofictions in the Feminine', French Studies, Vol. 67, n°1 (2013), p. 76-84

Kawakami, Akane. Photobiographies: Photographic Self-Writing in Proust, Guibert, Ernaux, Macé. Oxford: Legenda, 2013

Lee, Hermione. Body Parts. Essays on Life Writing. London: Pimlico, 2008

Further reading

Beaujour, Michel. Miroirs d'encre. Rhétorique de l'autoportrait. Paris: Seuil, 1980

Eakin, Paul. Fictions in Autobiography. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1985

---. Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992

Haverty Rugg, Linda. Picturing Ourselves: Photography and Autobiography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997

Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997

Hughes, Alex. Heterographies: Sexual Difference in French Autobiography. Oxford: Berg, 1999

Lejeune, Philippe. Je est un autre. Paris: Seuil, 1980

---. On Autobiography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989

---. Le Pacte autobiographique. Paris: Seuil, 1975

Nachtergael, Magali, Les Mythologies individuelles: récit de soi et photographie au 20e siècle. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012

Sheringham, Michael. French Autobiography: Devices and Desires, Rousseau to Perec. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students will have further developed their skills in the areas of research and enquiry, personal and intellectual autonomy, communication, and personal effectiveness.
KeywordsContemporary French and Francophone Literature,Life Writing,Photobiography,Intermediality
Course organiserDr Claire Boyle
Tel: (0131 6)50 4024
Course secretaryMs June Cahongo
Tel: (0131 6)50 3620
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information