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Il ne faut jamais avoir peur d’aller trop loin car la vérité est au-delà.

— Proust

French 250A: Studies in 19th Century French Literature — Countercurrents

Course Description:

This seminar will focus mainly on the first half of the 19th c.  and examine literary and non literary works that are central to grasping developments that  prepare the way for what we call  the “modernism” of  the second half of the century.  We will begin with Mme de Staël’s  post- revolutionary essay “Comment Terminer la Revolution?” which introduces a  new figure of the writer  and examine  her analysis of literature in relation to a discussion of the notion of “civilisation”  presented in lectures by the historian Guizot.  We will move on to consider both “right” and “left” versions of romanticism, through figures such as Chateaubriand and Victor Hugo and think about how these developments impact notions of realism and pure art in the 1830’s.  Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris will introduce us to issues of popular culture, his Préface de Cromwell and Hernani will present the issue of the mixture of genres (sublime and grotesque)  and the romantic challenge to the classical esthetic in the theatre. Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir will introduce us to questions of ambition and authenticity in a world of social transformation.   We will also look closely at some of Hugo’s engaged poetry ( La fin de Satan or some of Les Châtiments) and consider  Renan’s  romantic discourse of humanism in L’Avenir de la Science.  We might end with Villiers de l’Isle -Adam’s l ‘Eve Future.  We plan to conduct this seminar as a real seminar, with students setting up research /writing projects for themselves early in the semester and leading the way in the discussion of the works they have chosen for us to read.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes