Courses available in French


Le soleil est rare et le bonheur aussi l’amour s’Ă©gare au long de la vie.

— Gainsbourg

French 250A: Studies in 19th Century French Literature — Victor Hugo, Before and After


Selected poems  (selections from  works  throughout his career);  Selected prefaces,   including La Préface de Cromwell (1819, 1827); Le Dernier Jour d’un Condamné (1829), Claude Gueux (1834), Hernani (1830 ),  Le Rhin (1842, a travelogue)   L’Homme qui rit (novel, 1869), William Shakespeare (essays) and  various pamphlets on the death penalty, slavery and urban planning.

Course Description: 

Victor Hugo (1802 –1885) comes before and after the canonically modernist figures of the 19th Century  (Baudelaire and Lautréamont, for example). Poet, novelist and dramatist, he works in all the major literary genres and transforms them. From 1851 – 1870 he writes, draws and photographs  as a “living ghost” in exile.

We will consider the ways in which Victor Hugo invites us to reconsider our conceptions of romanticism and modernism through his work in various genres and media that span the century (from the Restoration to the Third Republic). We will examine the ways in which Hugo could be said to come before modernism and after it, specifically with respect to his notion of the roman poeme, of hybridity (including of grotesque and sublime)  and his visionary poetics.  We will also consider the specific strategies and commitments of Hugo the essayist, activist and visual artist, and their impact on his writing.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes