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Unit information: Around Cubism in 2020/21

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Unit name Around Cubism
Unit code FREN30096
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Harrow
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This interdisciplinary unit explores representations of city space, travel, objects, mechanicity, otherness, subjectivity, iconoclasm, the body, and new media before and during the First World War, a period characterized by experimentalism in the arts. We focus on how writers (Jarry, Apollinaire, Cendrars), composers and choreographers (Stravinsky, Diaghilev), and visual artists (Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay) constructed distinctive visions of the everyday, or, indeed, resisted material modernity in order to explore the autonomous space of the text or the canvas, the dance or the musical score. This unit aims to provide students with the historical background and critical vocabulary necessary to make an informed reading of selected early-twentieth-century texts in French, and assess critically related visual material. Students will develop practices for 'reading' both textual and visual material, and gain an understanding of the problems associated with the act of reading across genres (theatre, poetry, art writing) and across media (painting, photography, dance, music).


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to final year level. The content matter will include the following: experimental literature; innovative visual culture; social, cultural or political history (for the purposes of contextualisation); language study; cultural studies; and the interart study of music and dance.
  • To facilitate students' engagement with a body of critical literature, including secondary sources, texts, including non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Many of these sources will be in French and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills consolidating their knowledge-base and confidence in the use of the foreign language.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level 5.
  • To equip students with the skills to undertake postgraduate or further study in a relevant field, and to equip them with skills of appraisal and evaluation which will empower them fr their future work experience.
  • To enhance students’ transferable skills through close analysis and discussion of image and text, and sound and visual media.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate sophisticated knowledge of experimentalism in a range of arts during the Cubist period;
  2. demonstrate a sophisticated ability to read across genres and media;
  3. evaluate, analyse and synthesize with a sophistication appropriate to the level a range of artistic genres and media and theory and criticism relating to them;
  4. present and defend their analyses and arguments orally and in writing with a complexity and register appropriate to the level.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Information

One 2500-word essay (50%), testing ILO's 1-4.

1 x open-book assessment (50%), testing ILO's 1-4.

Reading and References

  • Jarry, Ubu roi
  • Apollinaire, Les Peintres cubistes
  • Apollinaire, Calligrammes
  • Cendrars, Du monde entier
  • Visual material, including BBC film Riot at the Rite