Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Narrating and Visualising French Colonialism
Academic Year
Semester 2
Mutually Exclusive
Eligibility for entry to level 4 French
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment One essay of 2000 words. One commentary of 1500 words. Only the essay mark will be taken for the continuous assessment element. The commentary will serve as a practice for the commentary that the students will have to write during the exam. It also allows for the need for formative as well as summative assessment. If a student fails to submit the commentary, and does not supply the tutor concerned with valid reasons/evidence in writing, the mark for the assessed essay will be carried forward as a continuous assessment mark, but divided by two. If no assessed work is submitted, the mark for the continuous assessment element (which will be fed into the overall module assessment) will be zero.  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   2 questions, equally weighted – one essay and one commentary  50%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit all failed or missed elements  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Resit the exam if failed or missed  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Show an understanding of the main concepts and issues associated with French colonial history.
2. Show an understanding of the arguments made against colonialism by the writers who lived during the colonial period.
3. Participate in debate and discussion about the portrayal of ‘local colour’ in French colonial narratives.
4. Engage critically with French literary and filmic texts and demonstrate a capacity to conduct literary and filmic analysis (including commentary writing).
5. Discuss the importance of fiction in portraying history.
6. Explore, through analysis of a variety of literary, filmic, artistic and musical texts, issues of race, identity and hegemony in the French colonial Empire.
7. Compare and contrast genres and time periods, in examining works from two different eras in four genres (literary, filmic, musical and artistic).
8. Understand from where some of the modern socio-political and socio-cultural issues surrounding race and immigration in France derive.
9. Understand the reasons for and the expressions of a continuing fascination with the colonial period.
10. Understand interactions with narratives of the colonial period itself when retelling its history.
11. Show awareness of the various types of literary analysis as encountered in secondary literature and as used in their essays (this outcome is only for FR38020).
12. Engage with postcolonial theory, particularly the work of Frantz Fanon. (This outcome is only for FR38020).


The aim of this module is to examine how key issues identified by writers during the colonial period are retold today through film, television, contemporary music, and art. It encourages students to make comparisons across genres and across time periods.
A major focus of this module will be on the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’. We will look not only at ‘what’ writers, filmmakers, musicians and artists represent, but also how they use the techniques of their trade to convey the messages they impart to their audience. We will also discuss how effective those techniques are. Therefore the module introduces students to techniques and methods of formal literary and filmic analysis, and to how to conduct literary analysis through commentary writing.

Brief description

This module, taught in French, encourages students to understand the fundamental origins of modern socio-political and socio-cultural issues surrounding race and identity in France, through exploring the period of colonialism which provokes them. The module examines French short stories and poems from the period 1769-1829 and studies each of these alongside a 21st-century visual equivalent which reconstructs and/or reinterprets the same aspects of colonial (hi)stories seen in the literary narratives. In so doing, it provides students with the opportunity to explore, through literary and filmic analysis, how issues such as cultural hegemony, race, identity, geographical expansion, and the psychological effects of spatial transition have been conceptualised and depicted in France from the 18th century to the present day. The module focuses on texts and visual images depicting Canada and the Indian Ocean, as well as the colonising Metropole itself.


This module is divided into three main sections. The course is structured so that each section follows the chronological order of the publication date of the original colonial literary text to be studied. Each week will consist of one lecture and one seminar.

There will be ten lectures in total. There will be two lectures on each text in section one (Canada), three lectures on each text in section two (Madagascar), three lectures on each text in section 3 (Enforced emigration) plus one introductory lecture and one revision lecture.

There will be ten seminars in total. There will be two seminars on each text in section one (Canada), three seminars on each text in section two (Madagascar), three seminars on each text in section 3 (Enforced emigration) plus one introductory seminar and one revision seminar.

Week 1: Introduction to historical background of French colonialism.

Weeks 2 and 3: Canada – The portrayal of Le Nouveau monde
• Comparison of Saint-Lambert’s short story Les Deux Amis, conte Iroquois (1769) and modern art by Patricia Gulyas. We will look at the conception and portrayal of the bon sauvage in its 18th and 21st century contexts, as well as the depiction of ‘local colour’.

Weeks 4, 5 and 6: Madagascar – The portrayal of the Indian Ocean
• Comparison of poetry (by two poets) from colonial Madagascar with modern Madagascan music written post Madagascan independence. We will study: a) one/two of Évariste Parny’s Chansons madécasses (1787) and b) one/two of Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo’s poems from the collection Traduit de la nuit (1935), alongside the film Mahaleo (2005), which tells the story of the music of the group Mahaleo, a Madagascan band famous for its anti-colonial protest songs (active 1970s to present day).

Weeks 7, 8 and 9: The Portrayal of Enforced or Voluntary Emigration to France from the Colonies
• Comparison of Claire de Duras’s short story Ourika (1823) and Abdellatif Kechiche’s film La Venus noire (2010), both of which discuss the issues surrounding forcibly bringing a person from colonised Africa to France. We will also look at Kamini’s rap song Marly-Gomont (2006) in this section of the course, which deals with the psychological effects (on a second generation immigrant) of being the only black person living in a particular French village. Comparison will again be made with Duras’s Ourika, which portrays the psychological effects on the heroine of being the only black person in her surroundings.

Week 10: Concluding analyses and exam revision

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Very limited (calculation of occurrences of expressions of a word in a text possible).
Communication Development of clear and accurate expression, assessed for writing.
Improving own Learning and Performance The quality of independent thinking will be assessed in the essay assignment.
Information Technology Students have to find on-line and printed secondary literature. They will have to engage with PollEverywhere activities.
Personal Development and Career planning Ability to work independently, identifying research questions. Awareness of the changing nature of various forms of expressive media. Capacity to structure in coherent form, and present in clear style. Students will communicate ideas effectively and fluently, both orally and in writing. They will use information technology for the researching and presentation of information. They will work independently, demonstrating their self-organisation and initiative, but will also collaborate with others in the process of debate and discussion.
Problem solving Students have to find relevant secondary literature for the essay assignment.
Research skills Yes – students have to do independent research in preparation for their essays.
Subject Specific Skills Yes – students learn to follow specific techniques of literary, artistic and filmic analysis, and apply these to texts studied in class and of their own choice.
Team work Students will collaborate with others in the process of debate and discussion


This module is at CQFW Level 6