Approaches to Teaching Duras's Ourika
When it was first published, in 1823, Claire de Duras's novel Ourika became a best seller almost immediately, and in recent decades, instructors have found it an irresistible addition to their syllabi. But from a teacher's perspective the novel presents something of a paradox. It is short, its narrative structure is uncomplicated, its vocabulary is limited, its plot is straightforward. It thus lends itself to "simple" readings that fail to reveal the novel's rich fund of social and historical themes. Set against the backdrop of the French and Haitian revolutions, the Terror, and the restoration and featuring the first black woman narrator in French literature, Ourika raises issues of identity, inequality, exclusion, power, and race and gender relations. The goal of this Approaches volume is to help teachers bring out the novel's profound and complex underpinnings and reveal Ourika, its Senegalese protagonist, as a victim of history and a timeless tragic heroine.
Part 1 provides an overview of editions of the novel and secondary resources, including critical, historical, and biographical studies. Also featured is a useful time line situating Duras's life in its historical framework. Part 2 offers a wealth of pedagogical approaches, grouped in four sections, which focus on the historical context of the novel; on race, gender, and class issues; on teaching Ourika with other works of literature; and on interdisciplinary perspectives.
Throughout the volume, the editions of Ourika referred to are the MLA Texts and Translations paperback editions, in French and in English translation, published in 1994.
About the Authors
"A treasure trove and a valuable resource for students, teachers, and scholars in a variety of fields." —Margaret Waller, French Review
"Professors and students in French will particularly want to consult this volume, but those interested in history, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, the humanities in general, and race and gender studies will also find engaging material and approaches." —Cheryl A. Morgan, Hamilton College
"[T]he chapters of this collaborative volume highlight the richness of this female-authored literary work of nineteenth-century France. . . . [The essays] provide teachers and scholars with a plethora of pedagogical tools, exercises and approaches to Duras's novel both within and beyond the (French) undergraduate curriculum. [T]his volume has greatly enhanced my own teaching as well as the scholarly lens through which I read this novel. I highly recommend [it] to professors of French and Francophone Studies, specialists in the field of nineteenth-century French literature and to nonspecialists who wish to incorporate the English version of Ourika into history and world literature courses. In addition, the collection of essays will be equally beneficial to scholars and graduate students whose research focuses on the French and Haitian Revolutions, the French colonial empire, the African Diaspora, Black Studies or the slave trade."
—Sarah E. Mosher, Nineteenth-Century French Studies
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