Approaches to Teaching Duras’s Ourika

  • Editors: Mary Ellen Birkett, Christopher Rivers
  • Pages: vii & 184 pp.
  • Published: 2009
  • ISBN: 9781603290197 (Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9781603290180 (Cloth)
Approaches to Teaching Duras's Ourika Cover

“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

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.

Chantal Bertrand-Jennings
Mary Jane Cowles
Thérèse De Raedt
Christine De Vinne
Damon DiMauro
David R. Ellison
Carolyn Fay
Dawn Fulton
Kathryn M. Grossman
Jen Hill
Deborah Jenson
Doris Y. Kadish
Dorothy Kelly
Christopher L. Miller
Marshall C. Olds
Adrianna M. Paliyenko
Sue Peabody
Scott M. Powers
Mireille Rosello
Jocelyn Van Tuyl
Kari Weil
Barbara Woshinsky

 Preface to the Series (ix)

Preface to the Volume (1)

PART ONE: MATERIALS

Editions and Translations (7)

French Editions (7)

English Translations (7)

Background Readings (8)

History (8)

Biography (8)

Race and Slavery (9)

Literary History (9)

Gender in History and Literature (9)

Studies of Ourika (10)

Introductions (10)

Books (10)

Articles (10)

Media Resources (11)

Significant Events in Duras’s Life, the Slave Trade, and French History (12)

Deborah Jenson and Christopher L. Miller

PART TWO: APPROACHES

Introduction (21)

Mary Ellen Birkett and Christopher Rivers

Historical Dimensions

The French Revolution in Ourika (24)

Mary Jane Cowles

The Restoration Looks Back at the Revolution (31)

Marshall C. Olds

Religion under Revolution in Ourika (37)

Christine De Vinne

Mirror Insurrections: Haitian and French Revolutions in Ourika (45)

Deborah Jenson

Duras, Biography, and Slavery (51)

Christopher L. Miller

Representations of the Real-Life Ourika (57)

Thérèse De Raedt

Race, Class, and Gender Matters

Black Faces, White Voices in Women’s Writings from the 1820s (66)

Doris Y. Kadish

Ourika and Women’s Literary Tradition in France (73)

Chantal Bertrand-Jennings

Telling Stories of Melancholia: René and Ourika (79)

Kari Weil

Ourika and the Reproduction of Social Forms: Duras and Bourdieu (85)

Dorothy Kelly

Ourika’s Mal (91)

Mireille Rosello

Literary Contexts

The Literary Frames of Ourika, Then and Now (97)

Adrianna M. Paliyenko

Ourika as an Inversion of the Pygmalion Myth (103)

Damon DiMauro

Duras and Hugo: An Intertextual Dialogue (110)

Kathryn M. Grossman

Exile according to Ourika and Julia (117)

Dawn Fulton

Across the Curriculum

Ourika in the History Classroom (122)

Sue Peabody

Ourika in the French Civilization Class (129)

Scott M. Powers

Ourika in an Honors College: From Intermediate French to Comparative Literature Seminar (135)

Jocelyn Van Tuyl

Ourika in a Fourth-Semester French Language and Culture Course (140)

David R. Ellison

He Said, She Said: Ourika in a Gender Studies Course (145)

Carolyn Fay

Ourika in the Humanities Survey (151)

Jen Hill

Teachings of Ourika (157)

Barbara Woshinsky

Notes on Contributors (163)

Survey Participants (167)

Works Cited (169)

Index (181)