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FR1111: Introduction to French Literature: Critical Skills

Terms: 1- 2

Convenor:  Joseph Harris


Exam (60%) 2 hours and 15 minutes, composed of two commentaries from a choice of three

Coursework (30%) one summative essay (1,200-1,500 words); please check Moodle for details of the deadline.

Moodle multiple-choice tests (10%)

(A formative commentary is set in Term 1.)


How does French literature differ from other uses of the French language? How do writers of French prose, poetry, and drama, achieve their intellectual and emotional impact on readers? The aim of this course is to introduce you to the basic formal, stylistic and rhetorical elements of French literature. You may have heard of some of these (e.g. metaphor, simile, symbol, irony), while others may be unfamiliar (e.g. focalization, the alexandrine, style indirect libre, the unity of action). You will undertake a detailed study of three literary texts – one work of prose, another of poetry, and a third dramatic work. Each has been selected because it exemplifies some of the more prominent formal features and literary devices of French literature throughout the ages. The course content will be delivered in alternating lectures and seminars, so there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss the skills you have learned with your tutor and peers. On completing ‘Introduction to French Literature: Critical Skills’, you will be a more confident reader of French texts, able to recognise and discuss the impact of some of the stylistic and rhetorical devices commonly found in French literary writing. The course does not assume any prior familiarity with French literary texts, nor with the history of French literature.


Key Bibliography:

Philippe Grimbert, Un secret (Paris: Gallimard, 2006)

Charles Baudelaire, ‘Spleen et Idéal’ (selection) from Les Fleurs du Mal

Jean Racine, Andromaque (any edition)


Recommended Further Reading

Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory: Key Critical Concepts (London: Prentice Hall, 1995)

Michael Hawcroft, Rhetoric: Readings in French Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)



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