Travels to Japan in Modern French Culture - FREN6370

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This course examines the portrayal of Japan in French and Belgian writing and culture from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Since Japan was opened to the West in the mid-19th century, there has been a tradition of French literary japanophilia. The course will permit a critical evaluation of the evolution of French 'japonisme', from its exoticist beginnings in the work of Pierre Loti, through early 20th century theories of exoticism. We will examine the portrayal of contemporary Japan in Amélie Nothomb's and Jacques Roubaud's work. 'Japoniste' images by French Impressionist painters will also be studied, as will Resnais's post-war film Hiroshima mon amour and a cinematic adaptation of Nothomb's work. The study of these texts and images will involve the exploration of themes such as intercultural understanding (or the lack thereof); the idealisation or demonisation of the other; the nature of 'Orientalism'; and the way in which French writers and artists turn to the foreign culture in order to critique their own culture.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Critical Writing Exercise (500 words) – 20%
Essay (2,500 words) – 60%
Presentation (15 minutes) – 20%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading:

Dossier of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings (any edition)
CORNEAU, A. Stupeur et tremblements [Film]
LOTI, P. 1887 [1990]. Madame Chrysanthème. Ed. Bruno Vercier. Paris: Flammarion
NOTHOMB, A. 1999. Stupeur et tremblements. Paris: J'ai Lu
RESNAIS, A. 1959. Hiroshima mon amour [Film]. Directed by Alain Resnais. Pathé
ROUBAUD, J. 2014. Tokyo infra-ordinaire. Paris: Tripode

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- Demonstrate a detailed and critical appreciation of a range of French cultural products from the 19th and 20th centuries (novels, travel writing, paintings, and cinema);
- Demonstrate analytical skills for the study of structure, prose and cinematic technique, the portrayal of national cultures and the nature of intercultural understanding as expressed in literature;
- Demonstrate confident skills relating to close reading and evaluation of French literary texts and of images of French culture;
- Demonstrate the ability to confidently deploy conceptual and critical arguments effectively in French and in English;
- Demonstrate their ability to read French quickly, and to listen and understand spoken French accurately.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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