Female Destinies: The Nineteenth-Century Novel on the Distaff Side/ Destinées féminines: le roman du XIXe au féminin

119B :  Nineteenth Century Literature
Spring 2021
Class No: 30364
remote; synchronous
R. Shuh


Texts :
• Claire de Duras, Ourika
• Balzac, Eugénie Grandet 
• Sand, Indiana
• Stendhal, Lamiel
• Flaubert, Un cœur simple
• Zola, Nana
• Truffaut, L’Histoire d’Adèle H. (1975) ou Nuytten, Camille Claudel (1988)

Course Description:

Many of the classic and canonical French novels of the nineteenth century feature a male hero—from Stendhal’s Julien Sorel to Balzac’s Rastignac, up through Flaubert’s Frédéric Moreau and Zola’s leading men.  Indeed, the novel’s claim to importance in the period depends in part on its connection to the “serious” disciplines of history and science, and thus on its heroes’ engagement in events and issues on the world historical stage.  But what status can female protagonists claim?  How do their “biographies” shape and inflect the genre as it comes to prominence?  What challenges do authors—whether male or female—face when writing the lives of women?  

We will investigate these questions of form, canonicity and representation along with others of gender, class and voice in reading a number of narratives from the early nineteenth century to its closing years.  We will read Claire de Duras’ Ourika, Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet, Sand’s Indiana, Stendhal’s unfinished Lamiel, Flaubert’s Un Coeur simple, and Zola’s Nana.  While exploring the ways in which these novelists give voice to their female leads, we engage in some creative life writing of our own, practicing some (necessarily shorter) pastiche, biography or autobiography in addition to typical interpretative essay writing.


French 102 or consent of Instructor.

Additional Information:

This course satisfies 1 “Literature/Genre” or 1 “Elective” course requirement in the French major.  Satisfies one course requirement in the French minor.