Course Description

Course Name

Overview of Literature and Ideas in France: 19th to 20th Centuries

Session: VPRS1422

Hours & Credits

45 Contact Hours

Prerequisites & Language Level

Note: A placement exam will be required when you arrive on site.


  • Prior to enrolling in courses at this language level, students must have completed or tested out of a minimum of two semesters (or three quarters) at the college level.

High Intermediate

  • Prior to enrolling in courses at this language level, students must have completed or tested out of a minimum of three semesters (or five quarters) at the college level.


This chronological journey into the French literary history of the last two centuries helps you (re)discover several important classical authors. Based on excerpts from their major works, we will see the contours of literary movements take shape, movements that influenced French culture and thought.

- To acquire the bearings needed in order to situate writers within their era and within the history of ideas
- To understand literary excerpts within the framework of their era and to discover the themes and elements that are characteristic to the literary and artistic movements to which the excerpts belong.
- To orally present an author, their life and their work.

Program19th CenturyRomanticism
- The origins with Madame de Stael, Benjamin Constant and Chateaubriand
- Victor Hugo and the Cénacle
- Romanticism and Romanesque: Balzac and his Comédie humaine
- Passion and truth chez Stendhal
- Musset and Georges Sand, ?Les Enfants du Siècle? (film)

Realism and Naturalism
- Flaubert, a disappointment of romanticism (to read: Trois Contes)
- From realism to naturalism with Zola and Les Rougon-Macquart
- The pessimism of Maupaussant (to read: La Parure)

Poetry: from Modernity to Symbolism
- A precursor: Gérard de Nerval and Les filles du feu
- The initiator: Beaudelaire and Les fleurs du mal
- Verlaine and Rimbaud
- Mallarmé and l?exigence absolu20th CenturyFrom l?Esprit Nouveau to Surrealism
- Art Nouveau around Apollinaire
- The surrealist nebulous (Breton, Eluard, Aragon, Artaud)

A Literature Engaged in the Angst of the Absurd
- Sartre and Existentialism
- Simone de Beauvoir and le deuxième sexe
- Camus between absurdity and revolt
- Theater of the Absurd with Ionesco and Beckett

The New Novel
- Robbe-Grillet, the theorist
- Michel Butor and La Modification
- Nathalie Sarraute and La guerre de paroleGrading
- 2 exams (50%)
- An oral presentation on the life and work of one of the authors that we study (the date of the presentations will be determined during the first class) (25%)
- Active participation, attendance, preparation for each class (reading, questions) (25%)

Educational Tools
- Each student must buy the following books:
La literature progressive du francais, intermediate level, Clé International
Trois Contes by Gustave Flaubert

- Other documents will be give out or projected: excerpts from books, historical landmarks, biographies and analysis

- Audiovisual documents (excerpts from L'histoire personnelle de la literature francaise by Jean d'Ormesson and excerpts from cinematic adaptations of certain works).

Weekly Program:

1 Presentation of the students Knowledge Quiz Presentation of the course
Historical landmarks of the nineteenth century.
2 Victor Hugo
The Origins of Romanticism
3 Romanticism and romance: Balzac and the human comedy Passion and truth in Stendhal
4 Flaubert, a disappointed romanticism
From realism to naturalism with Zola
5 The pessimism of Maupassant
6 TEST 1 + Claude Chabrol's film "Boule de suif"
7 Poetry: from modernity to symbolism. Nerval, the precursor; Baudelaire, the initiator
8 Verlaine and Rimbaud
9 20th century, historical landmarks. Proust: In search of lost time
10 Claudel: a versatile writer Aspects of Surrealism: Breton, Eluard, Aragon
11 TEST 2 + film «The foam of the days» by Michel Gondry
12 Sartre and Beauvoir existentialism and feminism
13 Camus: the absurd and the revolt
The theater of the absurd: Ionesco and Beckett
14 Literature to the present:
Modiano, The Clézio, Annie Ernaux

*Course content subject to change