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The Evolution of Modern
French Literature

From the Renaissance to the Present Day

The Evolution of Modern French Literature

From the Renaissance 

to the Present Day



8 Weeks Live Classes Online


2-5 Hours Per Week

1.5hr Class Per Week

8 Weeks

3rd of July 2024,

18:00 (UK time/UTC+1)

21st of August 2024

3rd of July 2024 at 18:00 

(UK time/UTC+1)

21st of August 2024





Course Overview

Course Overview

Our online course guides you through the development of French literature from the 16th century to the present day in a digestible, easy-to-follow format, providing insight into the historical, biographical and socio-political backgrounds of some of the most influential French writers and texts in history.

You will cover a range of French poetry, theatre, and prose writing, learning about the challenges of translation; how to conduct a detailed literary analysis of French texts; and discussing the style, form, genre, language, and more, of each text covered. 

Meet Your Teacher

Adam is a PhD student and Clarendon Scholar at the University of Oxford, specialising in the French novelist Marcel Proust.

He holds both a BA in Philosophy and French (First-Class Honours) and a Master’s Degree in French (Distinction) from the University of Oxford. He has many years of teaching experience, and he particularly enjoys helping students to develop a more critical approach to French literature.

Meet Your Teacher

Adam is a PhD student and Clarendon Scholar at the University of Oxford, specialising in the French novelist Marcel Proust.

He holds both a BA in Philosophy and French (First-Class Honours) and a Master’s Degree in French (Distinction) from the University of Oxford. He has many years of teaching experience, and he particularly enjoys helping students to develop a more critical approach to French literature.


By the end of this course, you will have gained a knowledge of:


Week one

Renaissance Writing:
Montaigne (1533-92) and Rabelais (1494-1553)

The sixteenth century was a tumultuous period in French history. Endless civil war raged between Protestants and Catholics, ravaging the countryside and causing widespread famine. Almost simultaneously, French armies were engaged in a variety of foreign campaigns, sometimes with such strange bedfellows as Ottoman pirates, against different elements of the encircling Hapsburg Empire. In the midst of these turbulences, two writers emerged whose avant-gardism, and sheer bawdiness, can still surprise and shock today. In this lesson, we will explore Rabelais, a comic writer of confused satire, and Montaigne, the inventor of the essay form – both of whom, in messy times, revelled in even messier literary styles.



Week two

Corneille (1606-1684) and De La Fayette (1634-1693)

After the turbulence of the sixteenth century, the French court wished to show, both to itself, to neighbours, and the country at large, that it was orderly again. As clean classical lines became the rage in visual arts, court writers likewise tried to adapt their style to a desire for both control and elegance. Although often derided for its severe adherence to formal rules, the classical playwrights of France produced some of the purest verse of the canon. In this lesson, we will look closely at one of these figures, Corneille, alongside the novelist De La Fayette, whose tightly-bound stories of court life pushed at the boundaries of French customs.


De La Fayette

Week three

The Enlightenment:
Montesquieu (1689-1755) and Voltaire (1694-1778)

In the eighteenth century, various writers began to push at the boundaries of Classicism, and, with it, the legitimacy of the monarchic system. Montesquieu’s Lettres persones were a comical means of critiquing some of the customs of the state. Alongside Montesquieu, Voltaire’s classic novel Candide provides a similarly wry and sidelong glance at a society that was soon to succumb to revolution.



Week four

Hugo (1802-85) and Sand (1804-1876)

The turbulence created by the French Revolution (1789) created room for many new currents of writing and thought. The most important of these was Romanticism, which allowed not only for a new notion of “man”, but also, I will argue, of woman. Romantic writers, now freer to rail against tendencies in society, produce some of France’s most powerful works of literature, as you will hopefully attest to in Victor Hugo and George Sand’s work.



Week five

Balzac (1799-1850) and Flaubert (1821-80)

Whilst we often think of kitchen-sink realism to be more “modern” than the sometimes unbelievable flights of Romanticism, in fact the two styles developed in parallel in 19th century France, and had similar predecessors and intentions. Balzac and Flaubert were both writers who allegedly attempted to show their world “as it really was”, warts and all. In this lesson, we will consider whether either writer opened a faithful window onto France in the first half of its nineteenth century.



Week six

Proust (1870-1922) and Rachilde (1860-1953)

After the gritty realities of Realism, Modernist writers cultivated an interest highly-stylised modes of expression in prose. In this age, interest in queer sexualities was first firmly introduced as a central subject for literature, and the two writers studied this week, Proust and Rachilde, are no exception to this trend. In this session, we look at the opening to Proust’s monster work, In Search of Lost Time, and Rachilde’s disturbing take on sex and education, La Marquise de Sade, concentrating on how modernism impacted the novelistic form.



Week seven

Césaire (1913-2008) and Camus (1913-1960)

As in Britain, the French empire began to falter during and after the Second World War. Alongside charting its collapse, we will consider here two writers who began to analyse the condition of French colonial subjects, and agitate for change in their writings. After the Second World War, many different currents crossed paths in the French and Francophone worlds, leading to an impressive array of different genres and writing. In this lesson, we will consider a polemical text by Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme (1950), chasing down distant and surprising associations with Rabelais. The question will be to compare this with Camus’ L’Étranger (1942), taken as a novel with an anti-colonial purpose.



Week eight

Contemporary Writing:
Ernaux (1940) and NDiaye (1967)

In the final lesson of our jaunt through French literature, we look at two living authors, both engaged in political writing. Ernaux, recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, made her career by engaging in compact autofiction, firstly on her experiences as a woman, secondly as her experiences as a child in the working-class environs of her native Yvetot. NDiaye, a Senegalese writing prodigy, explores similar themes in work that also considers the lingering impacts of French colonialism. How these two writers speak to one another through their writing, and what they have to say, will be the topic for our conversation in this lesson.




This course provides an introduction to French literature, therefore you do not need to have studied French literature previously in order to take part in – and get the most out of – this course.

You will be sent pre-reading before each lesson with an extract, plot overviews and/or some background information for each text that will be discussed in the upcoming lesson. Therefore, you do not need to have read every text that will be discussed in the lessons, as the aim of the course is simply to introduce you to a range of well-known French authors and provide you with an insight into their major works.

In the above curriculum you can see which texts will be covered on the course. We encourage students to read a handful of these texts before taking part in the course, as this will enhance their experience of studying French literature with an expert and allow them to get more from the course. Nevertheless, it is not mandatory to have read the texts on the syllabus, and students will still be able to follow the lessons without having read all of the texts.

We will send you some reading to do before every lesson, which will usually include synopses of the texts that will be discussed in the next lesson, an overview of the author’s biography, some excerpts from their works to give you a sense of their style, and some preliminary questions to get you thinking about the author and their works.

The reason for this pre-reading is quite simple: we believe that your time, and our teacher’s time, is very valuable; we want to avoid wasting either. Plot overviews, character descriptions, and other such information, is essential to know when studying literature, however we would rather our students familiarised themselves with this information prior to the classes so that lesson time can be spent covering subjects which are more difficult to find out by oneself, such as close reading, textual analysis, linguistic analysis, translation comparisons and evaluations, etc.

We also send you additional resources after each lessons, with links to further reading mentioned in the class for those students eager to explore French literature further.

Deposit refunds: 

If you cancel your booking with more than 3 weeks’ notice before the start of the course, then we will refund your deposit. If you cancel with less than 3 weeks’ notice, your deposit will not be refundable. Either way, you will not have to pay the remaining fee for the course if you cancel before attending any of the lessons. 

Cancelling once the course has begun:

Unfortunately, we cannot refund the course, or any individual lessons on the course, once it has begun. However, if you are unable to attend one or more of the lessons, you will still have access to the full lesson recording which you can watch at any time. 

A basic knowledge of French would be useful in taking part in the course, as we will be looking at texts in the original French with their English translations. However, you do not necessarily need to know any French in order to take part in this course, as all classes will be conducted in English, and the teacher will translate any French words and phrases that are discussed in detail during the lessons. 

All of our online classes for this course will be recorded and available for students to watch or rewatch after the class takes place. Therefore if you miss a class then you will be able to catch up by watching the recorded lesson. However, we encourage students to try to attend the live classes as much as possible as this provides them with the opportunity to interact with the teacher and ask any questions they may have.

If you can’t make any of the dates, please feel free to reach out and suggest new timings (this is because we would consider delivering the course to two groups if there were enough interest shown, and could therefore accommodate alternative timings for lessons).

Other questions? Email us anytime: info@linguatute.com

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