French studies / Reading the Signs: Text and Image in French Culture
You should answer one of the following thirteen questions. The work limit is 1500 words
(excluding the bibliography).1. In what sense(s) might LaImage fantA?me, a collection of essays about photography, be said
to constitute a narrative about Guibertas self?
2. The subject of a photograph is a?la chose nA©cessairement rA©elle qui a A©tA© placA© devant
laobjectif, faute de quoi il nay aurait pas de photographiea [the necessarily real thing that was
placed before the lens, without which there would not have been a photograph] (La
Discuss this statement and its implications for Barthesas view of the relationship between
the photograph and what is photographed.
3. a?Je ne puis montrer la Photo du Jardin daHiver. Elle naexiste que pour moi.a [I cannot
reproduce the Winter Garden Photograph. It exists only for me.] (La Chambre claire)
Why does Barthes decide not to show his readers this photograph in La Chambre claire, and
what are the implications of this decision for his thinking about the nature of photography?
4. In what sense might the photographs in Ernauxas LaUsage de la photo be said to constitute a
proof of life?
5. Discuss the differences between black and white and colour photographs, with reference to
Ernauxas LaUsage de la photo. 6. Why are so many of the essays in Guibertas LaImage fantA?me about failed photographs?
7. Guibert writes of the a?retoucheusea [retoucher] that a?elle peut fermer des yeux ouverts et
rouvrir des yeux fermA©s, elle peut faire marcher les morts.a [She can close open eyes and
reopen closed ones, she can make the dead walk.] (LaImage fantA?me)
Discuss the arguments for and against the referential nature of photography and compare
the medium to writing, with reference to ANY ONE of the three texts/authors studied in this
section of the module.
8. a?Nous sommes ici au principe mA?me du mythe; il transforme lahistoire en nature.a [a?We
reach here the very principle of myth: it transforms history into naturea (Roland Barthes,
Mythologies, Vintage edition (2009), p.154)].
Explain this statement in the context of Barthesas essay, a?Le mythe aujourdahuia [a?The Myth
Todaya]. You should illustrate your essay with examples taken from Barthes, from elsewhere
in this section of the course, and/or your own examples.
9. What various meanings have been encoded in the figure of Marianne? What is the
significance of this personification of the Republic being female? Illustrate your answer with
examples. Discuss ways in which ideas of French identity have been expressed through TWO OR MORE
of the following, illustrating your answer with detailed examples:
? the map of the i??hexagonei??;
? representations of the floorplan of the French National Assembly;
? images of French heads of state and/or presidential candidates;
? war memorials
11. How may we explain the richness of the iconography of the Vichy regime (1940-1944)?
Illustrate your answer with examples.
12. What can images of the French empire, colonies and colonised people tell us about the
importance and meaning of colonial empire in the 20th
century to French people? Illustrate
your answer with examples.
13. How much can we learn about the ideas and objectives of students and workers during the
events of May 1968 from the iconography of the period (including contemporary posters,
photographs, etc.)? Illustrate your answer with examples.