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  • Credits: 3

This course is intended for majors and minors.

Prerequisites: 420:215 and 420:216 or placement at the 300-level.

Course Description

Once a universal pastime, novels now have to compete with myriad other forms of entertainment. Why read them? Because novels are, in essence, narratives, and narratives are how humans make sense of the world. This online course aims to give you a new perspective on literature as a meaning-making activity, one whose understanding is bound to make you a more effective communicator. Our readings will introduce you to major authors of XIXth and XXth century French literature (Balzac, Flaubert, Yourcenar, Duras, Perec), as well as contemporary writers (Lafon, De Vigan), and will cover themes such as the fall of the French Empire, life in France as an immigrant, marriage, infidelity, compulsive spending, queer desire, eating disorders, and, bien sûr, love. Attention will be paid to the historical context of these works, close reading and other interpretive techniques, and the evolution of the novel as a genre.  Most of the novels we will study have been adapted into films, which we will watch. 

Language of Instruction


Course URL -

Course Satisfies Learning Goals

  • to learn how to read the works on the syllabus attentively and with critical understanding
  • to gain insight into the complex interaction of history and literature, and of politics and aesthetics
  • to learn about XIXth and XXth-century France, with an emphasis on the fall of the monarchy and of the French Empire
  • to expand your understanding of humanity through reflections on a wide range of emotions and experiences (see course description)
  • to improve your academic writing skills
  • to improve your French aural, oral, and writing skills

Exams, Assignments, and Grading Policy

Attendance and participation 30%
One oral presentation 10%
One oral exam 10%
Two 4-page papers 30%
One 8-page final paper 20%

A detailed explanation for each category can be found on the course syllabus. Please note that your instructor will do her best to discount absences or tardiness due to technical problems related to equipment or internet connection.

Course Materials

  Recommended Acceptable Optional (hardcopy)
Honoré de Balzac,
Le Colonel Chabert (1832)          
Flammarion “Etonnants Classiques” for Kindle
any Kindle version (public domain; free) Gallimard, Folio “Classique”
ISBN-13: 978-2070365937     
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1856) Le Livre de Poche “Classiques” for Kindle
any Kindle version (public domain; free)  Le Livre de Poche "Classiques"
ISBN-13: 978-2253183464      
Marguerite Yourcenar, Alexis ou le Traité du Vain Combat (1929) Gallimard for Kindle
  Gallimard, Folio
ISBN-13: 978-2070370412
Georges Perec, Les choses (1965) Julliard for Kindle
  any print copy
Marguerite Duras, L’Amant (1984) Minuit for Kindle
  Editions de Minuit
Delphine de Vigan, Jours sans faim (2001)  Under the pen name of Lou Delvig. Grasset for Kindle
  any print copy
Marie-Hélène Lafon, Nos vies (2017) Buchet Chastel for Kindle
  any print copy

Course Closed?

If this course is closed, please contact me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to be placed on a Wait List.


Prof. Carole Allamand