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

Undergraduate Course: Documentary Forms in French and Francophone Culture (ELCF10082)

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
SummaryThe course will introduce students to different documentary forms across media and cultures. Made by French and Francophone artists and journalists, the documentaries studied across the course explore sociocultural, political, and ecological issues, both in contemporary and historical contexts. The course will train students to examine and compare various modes of representation, whilst identifying the key characteristics of different media.
Course description Academic description

The course will consider the diversity of contemporary documentary forms across a broad range of media, including photography, radio podcasts, installation, comics, live action and animated film. It will provide various perspectives on the evolution of documentary in recent decades, especially in the context of French and Francophone culture, with the emergence of new platforms and ways for audiences and readers to engage with sociocultural issues, political and intersectional questions, as well as personal and collective histories.

The course will explore questions of representation - both from a social and aesthetic perspective - in a selection of documentaries. Students will examine documentaries that depict underrepresented social groups as well as marginalised voices. In addition, the course will provide students with the critical and comparative tools to analyse the documentaries¿ aesthetic features. How do they represent and mediate ¿the real¿? What are the differences and commonalities between the documentary aesthetics of a film, a photograph, or a comic book? How do the documentarists represent themselves? The personal (when not autobiographical) and ethical relationship between the individuals who make the documentaries and the represented subjects will be one of the key themes of the course. A selection of the following themes and topics will also be covered: education; wars and conflicts; everyday practices; the relationship between local and global cultures; the representation of memory and history.

Course Outline

Week 1 - Introduction

Weeks 2-9 - Each week will cover either: a selection of radio podcasts; a selection of photographs; a documentary film or animated film; a video installation; a comic book.

Week 10 - Conclusion

Student Learning Experience

The course will be taught in ten two-hour seminars over the semester. In preparation for each seminar, students will be expected to familiarise themselves with the primary sources and read one academic article (or extracts of a book chapter) on the weekly topic. Every week, students will be provided with preliminary questions on the primary texts and secondary readings. They will also conduct independent research to prepare their group presentations. As the course encourages student-led learning experience, most of the seminar will be dedicated to group activities and class discussion. The tutor will introduce the primary sources at the beginning of each class.
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
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  18
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% Coursework
Participation in class 10%
Presentation 20%
1800 words Essay 70%
Feedback Students will receive detailed written feedback on their oral presentation, in order to help them identify areas of improvement. Feedback will be communicated via email in the week following the presentation. The feedback will be useful for the preparation of the final essay.

Students will also receive written feedback on their final essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge of a broad range of media and arts (radio, photography, installation art, film, animated film, comics)
  2. Analyse and compare the specific features of various documentary forms and modes of representation
  3. Critically think and be actively curious about diverse sociocultural issues, both on a local and global scale
  4. Communicate coherent arguments in English and French in written and oral forms. The course will be taught in French; students are expected to do their oral presentation in French but will have the possibility to write their essay in English.
  5. Use learning and research skills in collaboration with peers as well as autonomously by synthesising secondary sources and critically engaging with them.
Reading List


Guy Delisle, Chroniques de Jérusalem (Paris: Delcourt, 2011)

Agnès Varda, L¿Ile et Elle. Regards sur l¿exposition (Actes Sud: 2006)


La Cour de Babel, dir. Julie Bertucelli (2013)

L¿Image manquante, dir. Rithy Panh (2013)

Lieux Saints, dir. Jean-Marie Teno (2009)

Quelques Veuves de Noirmoutier, dir. Agnès Varda (2005)


Jeff Adams, Documentary Graphic Novels and Social Realism (Oxford; New York: Peter Lang, 2008)

Philippe Bazin, ¿De l¿Instant décisif à la photographie documentaire critique¿, 1895¿, Vol. 84 (2018), pp. 25-39.

Claire Bishop, Installation Art. A Critical History (Routledge, 2005)

Michelle Bogre, Documentary Photography Reconsidered: History, Theory, and Practice (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019)

Aline Caillet and Frederic Pouillaude, Un Art documentaire. Enjeux esthétiques, politiques et éthiques (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2017).

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment (Gottingen: Steidl, 2014)

Hillary L. Chute, Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016)

Kelley Conway, Agnès Varda (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015)

Sarah Cooper, Selfless Cinema? Ethics and French Documentary (London: Legenda, 2006)

Christophe Deleu, Le Documentaire Radiophonique (Paris: L¿Harmattan, 2013)

Rebecca DeRoo, Agnes Varda Between Film, Photography, and Art (Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2018)

Frits Gierstberg, Documentary Now! Contemporary Strategies in Photography, Film, and the Visual Arts (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2005)

Kenneth W. Harrow and Carmela Garritano, A Companion to African Cinema (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019)

Craig Hight, Kate Nash, and Catherine Summerhayes, New Documentary Ecologies: Emerging Platforms, Practices, and Discourses (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014)

Annabelle Honess Roe, Animated Documentary (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Justin Izzo, ¿Jean-Marie Teno¿s Documentary Modernity: From Millennial Anxiety to Cinematic Kinship¿, African Studies Review, Vol. 58.1 (2015), pp. 39-53.

Shirley Jordan, ¿Spatial and Emotional Limits in Installation Art: Agnès Varda¿s L¿Ile et Elle¿, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, Vol. 13.5 (2009), pp. 581-88.

Joseph Mai and Leslie Barnes, eds, The Cinema of Rithy Panh: Everything Has a Soul (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2021)

Alison J. Murray, Vivre Ici: Space, Place, and Experience in Contemporary French documentary (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019)

Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary, Third Edition (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2017)

Anjali Prabhu, Contemporary Cinema of Africa and the Diaspora (West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, 2014)

Johannes C.P. Schmid, Frames and Framing in Documentary Comics (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021)

Vincente Sanchez-Biosca, ¿Challenging Old and New Images Representing the Cambodian Genocide: The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh, 2013)¿, Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, Vol. 12 (2018), pp. 140-164.

Leshu Torchin, ¿Mediation and Remediation: La Parole filmée in Rithy Panh¿s The Missing Picture (L¿Image manquante)¿, Film Quaterly, vol. 68 (2014), pp. 32-41.

Further Reading

Erika Balsom and Hila Peleg, eds, Documentary Across Disciplines (MIT Press, 2016)

Gerda Cammaer, Blake Fitzpatrick, Bruno Lessard, Critical Distance in Documentary Media (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2018).

Wilma De Jong, Erik Knudsen, Jerry Rothwell, eds, Creative Documentary: Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 2011)

Wilma De Jong and Thomas Austin, Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives and Practices (Buckingham: Open University, 2008)

Guy Delisle, Chroniques Birmanes (Paris: Delcourt, 2007)

Guy Delisle, Pyongyang (Paris: L¿Association, 2003).

Judith Kriger, Animated Realism: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Animated Documentary Genre (Routledge, 2012).

Jonathan Murray and Nea Ehrlich, ed. Drawn From Life: Issues and Themes in Animated Documentary Cinema (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021)

Gail Pearce, Cahal McLaughlin, and Jill Daniels, Truth, Dare, or Promise: Art and Documentary Revisited (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013).

Cécile Pocheau-Lesteven, La France de Raymond Depardon (Paris: Seuil, 2010)

Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon, 1978)

Bhaskar Sarkar and Janet Walker, eds, Documentary Testimonies: Global Archives of Suffering (New York and London, Routledge: 2010)

Cathy J Schlund-Vials, ¿Evincing Cambodia¿s Genocide: Juridicial Belatedness, Historical Indictment, and Rithy Panh¿s The Missing Picture¿, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, Vol. 20 (2016), pp. 287-296.

Jan-Noël Thon, ¿Post/Documentary: Referential Multimodality in¿¿Animated Documentaries¿ and¿¿Documentary¿Games¿¿, Poetics Today, 2019-06, Vol.40 (2), p.269-297.

Boel Ulfsdotter and Anna Backman Rogers, Female Authorship and the Documentary Image: Theory, Practice and Aesthetics (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018)

Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike, ed., Critical Approaches to African Cinema Discourse (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2014)

Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike, Questioning African Cinema. Conversations with Filmmakers (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills SCQF Level 10

Knowledge that covers and integrates most of the principal areas, features, boundaries, terminology and conventions of the subject.
A critical understanding of the principal theories, concepts and principles.
Detailed knowledge and understanding in one or more specialisms, some of which is informed by, or at the forefront of, the subject
Knowledge and understanding of the ways in which the subject is developed, including a range of established techniques of enquiry or research methodologies

Critically identify, define, conceptualise and analyse complex problems and issues.
Critically review and consolidate knowledge, skills, practices and thinking in a subject and discipline.

Present or convey, formally and informally, information about specialised topics to informed audiences.

Exercise autonomy and initiative
Work with others to bring about change, development and/or new thinking.
KeywordsDocumentary,cinema,Film studies,comics,bande dessinée,graphic novel,photography,radio
Course organiserMr Francois Giraud
Tel: (0131 6)50 3745
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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