HUMS 242, Middle East in French Literature & Art

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:35-12:50

Course Description:

This course examines representations of the Orient in the French literature from 17th to the 20th centuries in fiction, poetry, travel literature, and art. The topics range from  problems of Orientalism and encounters with peoples, monuments, and cultures of the Muslim Middle East, to Oriental influences on French prose, poetry and arts, use of Oriental “Other” in social and political critique, the popular lure of Oriental exoticism, fantasy and fantastic, the Orient as a romantic space and literature of escapism and also the impact of the “Imagined Orient” on figurative art.

The seminar makes use of the extensive collections at the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library like Denon, Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte, the Reserve of Sterling, Botta and Flandin, Monuments de Ninive, and the Yale University Art Gallery for drawings and photographs. Readings cover the Middle East (Levant and Egypt), Iran (Persia) and include works by preeminent French writers such as Molière, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Chateaubriand, Nerval, Gautier, Flaubert, travelers like Tavernier, Denon, Jane Dieulafoy or Bouvier and essayists such as Said. Artists like Delacroix, Decamps, Ingres, Horace Vernet, Chassériau, Fromentin and Gérôme are also considered.

Prerequisite: Knowledge of French at L5 level.

Led By:

Marie-Hélène Girard's picture

Professor Marie-Hélène Girard

Marie-Hélène Girard first studied Classics at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. After obtaining the agrégation, she received a license  in Art History at Paris IV-Sorbonne.  A specialist in 19th-century literature and art, she was awarded her doctorat d’État from Paris IV-Sorbonne in 1999.  She has taught Comparative Literature as an assistant Professor at the university of Poitiers and later as an Associate Professor at the universities of Dijon and Paris X-Nanterre. She has been Professor of Comparative Literature at the Université de Picardie-Jules Verne since 1999.  She joined the Yale faculty as a Visiting Professor in 2002.

She is currently co-chair of the editorial team in charge of Théophile Gautier’s Salons (8 volumes to be published by the Éditions Champion, Paris). She has contributed an annotated critical edition of Les Beaux-Arts en Europe, 1855, and is preparing a new edition of Gautier’s Italia.

Within the field of 19th century studies, she works primarily on art criticism, and more generally on the relationships between artists and writers, travel literature, and Italian and German cultures and their French reception.  Her more recent research project deals with 19th-century world fairs.

Maryam Sanjabi | Yale MacMillan Center Council on Middle East Studies

Professor Maryam Sanjabi

Maryam Sanjabi is Senior Lecturer in the Department of French at Yale. She holds a doctorate in French literature from Sorbonne IV (1992) and specializes in 18th century literature. Her dissertation was on “The Influence of the Voltairian Polemics on the Pamphlets of the Iranian Intellectuals of Pre-Constitutional Period (1866-1906).” Among her publications are “Le Royaume Farfelu de Clara Malraux,” Bookbird, vol. 36, no. 2 (Summer 1998), 13-19; “Mardumguriz: An Early Persian translation of Moliere’s Le Misanthrope,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 30 (1998), 251-270; and “Akhundzada and his Voltaire: Re-reading the Enlightenment,”Iranian Studies, 28: 1-2, Fall-Winter 1995, 29-60. She formerly was Professor of French at Southern Illinois University and before that taught at Tehran University and the University of California (Chico). Among courses she is offering at Yale is “French Orient: The Influence of the Orient on French Literature.”