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BA English Language and French

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Identity and Power

Unit code FREN20561
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by French Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course examines the representation of racial identity and power relations during the French colonial period, with a focus on literature, stage performance and cinema during the Third Republic (1870-1939). Introductory lectures and seminars contextualise the history of French colonisation and the fashion for ‘exoticism’, introducing the key concepts of ‘race’, ‘Orientalism’ and ‘imperial gaze’, and discussing theories of racial representation and stereotyping. Subsequent sessions are devoted to the analysis of audio-visual texts that engage primarily with ethnicity: Le Mariage de Loti, a novel by Pierre Loti (1880), the stage and film performances of black artist Josephine Baker (1927-35), and the film Pépé le Moko (dir. Julien Duvivier, 1937).


Pre-requisites: French Language 2 or French Language 3


  • to familiarise students with the French history of colonisation and the discipline of Cultural Studies in order to enable them to contextualise, analyse and interpret literary and audio-visual artworks of the period;
  • to provide students with key concepts (‘identity’, ‘race’, ‘exoticism’, ‘orientalism’);
  • to encourage and enable students to verbalise and intellectualise their emotional response to reading and film/performance viewing.
  • to provide an overview of the different issues of cultural representation with specific reference to the perception of racial ‘difference’ in a colonial context;

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • locate historically the period of French colonisation

  • reflect on the meaning of ‘race’ using the theory and method of Stuart Hall

  • analyse French representations of Blackness

  • reflect on the cultural eloboration of national and racial identity within the French context

  • know in depth 3 French texts (Loti, Baker, Pépé le Moko)

  • draw contrasts and comparisons between the 3


Week 1: historical presentation of French colonisation; theoretical introduction

Weeks 2-3-4: Le mariage de Loti

Weeks 5-7-8: performances by Josephine Baker

Weeks 9-10-11: Pépé le Moko

Week 12 and throughout (at the end of each study block): formative assessment in preparation for the exam

Teaching and learning methods

3 introductory lectures on colonisation and theory;

6 lectures and 3 seminars on Loti;

6 lectures and 3 seminars on Josephine Baker;

6 lectures and 3 seminars on Pépé le Moko;

3 hours of preparation and formative feedback on the ACW plus exam.

(= a total of 33 contact hours, plus film screenings)


Extensive digitised material, links to relevant online resources, and all class PPT slides will be placed on Blackboard. Students will also be set regular tasks via Blackboard as preparation for classes and assessment.



Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of some of the major aspects of identity and power, race and exoticism, in French culture and society at the turn of the twentieth century.

  • Understand and critically evaluate the ways in which discourses on and representations of ‘race’ can be loaded for political reasons.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

  • Analyze and discuss both literary and visual material in a structured fashion;

  • use terminology and conceptual frameworks derived from Cultural Studies (‘identity’, ‘stereotype’, ‘representation’).

  • Understand and appreciate the idea that meaning exists through language and in representation.

  • Discuss in depth the critical theory developed by Stuart Hall in ‘The Spectacle of the Other’ 

             (Representation, 1997).

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • demonstrate their ability to carry out individual research for their courseworks;
  • express their ideas and arguments coherently and convincingly using an appropriate level of academic writing.
  • take notes, share ideas, analyse audio-visual and written texts, participate in class; work to deadline, take decisions (see also transferable skills below).

Transferable skills and personal qualities

 By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • demonstrate powers of analysis;
  • manage time effectively when writing in exam conditions;
  • participate in seminars;
  • assess the relevance of existing literature through independent research;
  • seek advice and feedback
  • develop confidence.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critical analysis and intellectual adaptability are key skills in the job market.

Assessment methods


Assessment tasks


Weighting within unit

1        coursework

(includes formative feedback on 500-word plan)


2,000 words




1 exam (with a choice of 3 questions)


2 hours




Assessment task


1 coursework

3,000 words


Feedback methods

  • Oral feedback on in-class comments and analysis
  • Written feedback on draft essay plans
  • Final individual and written feedback on sat exam
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Aldrich, Robert, Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996)

Boittin, Jennifer Anne, ‘Black in France. The Language and Politics of Race in the Late Third Republic’, French Politics, Culture and Society, 27 (2), 2009, 22-46

Evans, Martin, Empire and Culture: The French Experience, 1830-1940 (Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

Hall, Stuart, ‘The Spectacle of the “Other”’, in Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, ed. by Stuart Hall (London: Sage, 2001), 223-90


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Joseph Mcgonagle Unit coordinator
Barbara Lebrun Unit coordinator
Vladimir Kapor Unit coordinator

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