Fall 2021

Remember! Writing on Genocide

Listed in: French, as FREN-355

Moodle site: Course


Raphael Sigal (Section 01)


“Language has unmistakably made plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past, but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil.” Walter Benjamin surely wrote these words with Marcel Proust (whom he translated) in mind. The opening pages of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time will be the starting point of our reflection. In these seminal pages, the narrator reminisces about his early life through all the bedrooms where he slept. Benjamin’s words, however, take on a particular significance when “the matter” of memory is the experience of genocide and mass murder. In this class, we will read and watch direct or indirect accounts of the Holocaust, the genocide of the Tutsis, the Khmer Rouge regime, and the Indonesian mass killings of 1965-1966. Confronted with texts and films of this kind, we will interrogate the relation between literature and memory, writing and trauma, remembering and forgetting. We will read books by Marcel Proust, Elie Wiesel, Scholastique Mukasonga, Patrick Modiano, Boris Boubacar Diop, and Art Spiegelman; watch movies by Alain Resnais, Claude Lanzmann, Ritty Panh, Joshua Oppenheimer, and Chantal Akerman; and read various short essays. Conducted in French.

Requisite: One of the following--FREN-207, 208, or the equivalent. Fall semester: Professor Sigal.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing, Languages Other Than English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021