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Unit information: French Novel in 2015/16

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Unit name French Novel
Unit code FREN20023
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Stephens
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The novels studied are taken from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, a period which saw the rise of the novel from a genre without prestige to one with a position of dominance. Introductory lectures (in French) and seminars (in English).

This unit will involve study of a selection of novels from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. There will be both close analysis of the texts in their specific historical contexts and comparisons between the different types of narrative that we find in them. These approaches will be used to discuss what we understand by the novel as a literary genre. The unit begins by examining one of the earliest French novels, La Princesse de Clèves (1678), seen as the beginning of the modern psychological novel in its exploration of the tension between private and public desires. Such tensions are explored further in Manon Lescaut (1731) before examining the move into Romanticism and the age of unbridled individualism, exemplified by Adolphe (1816). The empowerment of the individual and the collapse of absolutism in the wake of the Revolution and Napoleon are then considered in the scandalous Madame Bovary (1856) as an unsettling new reality, whose difficulties can only be fully probed by fiction. The unit concludes with the move into Modernism in Les Caves du Vatican (1914), paying particular attention to the blurred lines between fact and fiction and the playfulness of narrative voice in resisting any certainties.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to second year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students’ engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level C.
  • Some options may prepare students for the experience of the Year Abroad.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will:

  • be knowledgeable about a significant cultural, historical or linguistic subject related to the language they are studying;
  • be skilled in the selection and synthesis of relevant material;
  • be able to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials, usually in a foreign language, at a high level;
  • be able to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an high level of complexity;
  • be able to transfer these skills to other working environments, including study at a foreign university and on work placements during the year abroad.

Teaching details

Normally one lecture hour and one seminar hour per week across one teaching block (22 contact hours), often with student presentations. In units with a smaller number of students the lecture hour may be replaced by a second seminar or a workshop. Units involving film may require students to view films outside the timetabled contact hours.

Assessment Details

A written assignment of 2000 words and a two hour exam (50% each)

Reading and References

Madame de Lafayette La Princesse de Clèves (Livre de Poche)

Abbé Prévost Manon Lescaut (Garnier-Flammarion)

Benjamin Constant Adolphe (Folio)

Gustave Flaubert Madame Bovary (Garnier-Flammarion)

André Gide Les Caves du Vatican (Folio)