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Online French Literature Course

The Evolution of Modern
French Literature

From the Renaissance to the Present Day

Limited spaces available

The Evolution of Modern French Literature

From the Renaissance 

to the Present Day



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Course details

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





Online French Literature 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 mixture 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

French Literature Course 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 The Teacher Of Our French Literature Course

French Literature Course 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. 


What have people said about this online course?

Free Taster Session

Still undecided? Watch our taster session on Madame Bovary to get more of a feel for the course! Please request the link using the form below.


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.  



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

Free taster session

Still undecided? Enter your name and email below to access our FREE online taster session recording!



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. All materials, set reading and assessments are provided in both English and French, so you can take the course with minimal knowledge of the French language. 

We will send you some reading to do before each lesson, which includes a brief synopsis of the texts that will be discussed in the next lesson, an overview of the authors’ biographies, some excerpts from their works to give you a sense of their style, and some preliminary questions to get you thinking about the authors and their works. 

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 during the lessons. 

All of our online classes are recorded and available for students to watch or rewatch at their convenience. 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. 

Other questions about this French literature course? Email us at info@linguatute.com