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Les mémoires de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale en France : théorie, littérature, cinéma


Admission requirements

Bachelor French Language and Literature or bachelor in another modern language.
Students from other tracks of Literary Studies or Media Studies are welcome provided they have a good reading and listening proficiency in French. In that case, the oral presentation and paper will be in English or Dutch. Please contact the teacher before signing in.


This (French taught) course is about the multi faceted French memory of Worldwar II and its representations in literature and cinema. As a theoretical basis, we will study different kinds of memory: multidirectional memory, memory and trauma, second generation memory or ‘postmemory’. Starting with some works by eyewitnesses – Claude Simon, Hélène Nemirowsky’s posthumously published Suite française - , we will see how soldiers, civilians, resistants, collaborators and Jews did not share the same experience of the German invasion and the ‘drôle de guerre’. With her famous film Hiroshima mon amour, Marguerite Duras was one of the first to dare speak about French Collaboration. The film was the start of a less idealized picture of the French role during Worldwar II. From the 1970s on, Vichy and Collaboration were no longer taboo subjects. The latter half of this course will focus on a specific memory, that of nazi concentration camps. Here too, there is not one single memory, but many different ones. We will first study the narratives of two Communist Resistants, Robert Antelme and Charlotte Delbo. And then see how this first generation memory compares with that of Henri Raczymow, the postwar descendant of Jewish survivors , for whom memory becomes a borrowed memory or ‘postmemory’. A key question all along this course is how memory through literary fiction and film differs from other forms of memory.

Course objectives

  • thorough knowledge and insight into the studied literary texts and films

  • knowledge of the historical and cultural context of the works studied

  • knowledge and insight into theories of cultural memory

  • the ability to do independent research in this field and to use theory and secondary literature

  • Ability to analyze a relevant subject of one’s choice and to present one’s findings in an oral presentation and written assignments

  • Ability to share analytical and theoretical arguments during class discussion.



Mode of instruction


Course Load

10 EC = 280 hours:

  • weekly two-hour seminar (2×13 hours): 26 hours

  • weekly reading assignments (8×13 hours) and oral presentation: 104 hours

  • mid-term assignment and preparation: 50 hours

  • final paper: 100 hours.

Assessment method

midterm assignment (approx. 2000 words): 30% of final mark oral presentation: 20 % final paper (approx. 5000 words): 50%

The average of the three components should be sufficient.
Resit: only for the final paper.


Blackboard will be used for: practical information, assessment purposes, the providing of documents and discussion between students .

Reading list

  • Robert Antelme, L’espèce humaine (Gallimard Tel)

  • Charlotte Delbo, Aucun de nous ne reviendra (Minuit)

  • Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima mon amour (Gallimard Folio)

  • Irène Nemirowsky, Suite française (Gallimard Folio Plus)

  • Henri Raczymow, Un cri sans voix (Gallimard)

  • Claude Simon, L’acacia (Minuit)

  • Atiq Rahimi, Synghé sabour (Gallimard Folio).

Claude Simon, L’acacia will have to be read before the start of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the Literary Studies departmental office
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.


Dr. A.E. Schulte Nordholt Literary Studies departmental office
Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers MA