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FR11: Gender, desire, and power in 19th century French culture

This paper is available for the academic year 2017-18.

This paper uses a broad thematic optic to provide students with a detailed, wide-ranging, and thought-provoking account of nineteenth-century French cultural life. The thematic approach adopted here has the double advantage of reflecting specialist research interests in the Department while simultaneously reflecting some of the most important and fruitful critical approaches to the subject that have developed in recent decades.

Learning Objectives

  • To introduce students to a robust corpus of primary texts, including both ultra-canonical and some less well-known works, with a stress on prose fiction;
  • To provide you with a broad contextual knowledge within which to situate the set texts;
  • To improve students' knowledge of the cultural and political history of nineteenth-century France;
  • To acquaint you with some of the major conceptual strands of research in nineteenth-century French studies over the past thirty years;
  • To alert you to the usefulness and to the limitations of gender and sexuality for literary and historical analysis.
Topics: 

The topics for 2017/2018 will be:

  • Romantic Identities –Benjamin Constant: Adolphe and George Sand: Indiana.
  • Class and Social Power – The Goncourts: Germinie Lacerteux, and Emile Zola: Germinal
  • The Novel of Adultery – Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary, and Emile Zola: Pot-Bouille.
  • Serial Love and Divorce – Guy de Maupassant: Bel-Ami and Anatole France: Le Lys rouge.

In most cases, students can use any modern paperback edition (GF or Folio, for instance).

Preparatory reading: 

Please see the paper reading list.

Teaching and learning: 

Students taking paper Fr11 will follow, over Michaelmas and Lent terms, a single, 16-20 lecture core course. This is divided into four separately titled ‘topics’, plus additional introductory lectures.

  • Each topic will take the form of three or four lectures and be supported by two supervisions.
  • Ample reading lists will be provided to encourage wider critical and contextual reading.
  • It is envisaged that each student will have a single supervisor for the entire paper (leave permitting).
Assessment: 

The exam will be comprised of three sections: A, B and C. Students will answer one question from each section (see the specimen paper).

  • Section A: four general questions requiring a synoptic answer which refers to "a range of material from the period". Students will be expected to choose material from two of the four topics in this answer.
  • Section B: two questions each on the four topics taught in lectures in the relevant year, to elicit more focused, detailed responses. Students will be expected to discuss one particular topic in this answer.
  • Section C: a critical commentary exercise on one of a choice of two texts, which will be taken from ‘unseen’ works (i.e. not those works prescribed for the course).
Course Contacts: 
Dr Claire White