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FR105 Module Description


By the end of the module you will have

  • read, thought about and discussed a range of topics concerning poetry from the fourteenth century to the present;
  • practised, individually and in workgroups, translating a range of French verse into English;
  • developed strategies of close reading and analysis that you can use effectively in approaching any kind or form of literature.

By the end of the module you will be able to

  • critically discuss, with your peers in class as well as in writing, short poems in English and French;
  • apply a structured approach to comparing and contrasting a French poem with an English one;
  • consider different linguistic and cultural contexts in relation both to translation practice and to literary criticism;
  • discuss a range of issues raised in translating French, and especially poetry, for an anglophone audience;
  • produce an intelligent and accurate translation of a poem in French


The module is taught by weekly seminars/workshops over 20 weeks (8, 9, and 3). Seminars take place on Thursdays, from 2.00–4.00pm. Your timetable will show where the class will be held.

You are required to submit two short pieces of written work during the year; these mimic the examination format and are thus practice for the examination. Your work will be marked and returned to you, with individual narrative feedback detailing both positive aspects of the submission and areas for improvement.

After a taster/introductory lecture in Week 1, the module is mainly taught through a series of workshop-based seminars, with some mini–lectures. You will translate and critically examine French poems, examining as part of the exercise both the nature of common problems in translation that arise and possible solutions. You will also learn how to compare English and French poems effectively, as well as learning about various common poetic forms of French and English verse, and literary schools and movements. Seminars often begin with students working in small groups under direction, preparing texts for open discussion. No programme of the year's activities will be published, as the seminars are based on examining 'unseen' poems; occasionally, longer or more challenging poems may be given out in advance for preparation before the class.

There is no set module book, but there are three handouts supporting the seminars on the module's Moodle pages which you will need to download and study. You will be expected to support the class activities through private study, using the various dedicated handouts supplied. You are also encouraged to pursue individual study of poetry and criticism, developing the habit of seeking out poems to explore, and doing regular reading on literary criticism, particularly the analysis of poetry. A reading list will be supplied for guidance.


The module is examined by one three-hour examination in the Summer Term. There is no additional reading time. The exam consists of two sections:

A: A French text to be translated into English, and a brief critical commentary of the original work, including discussion of particular issues raised by translating for an anglophone reader.

B: A practical criticism exercise inviting commentary on and comparison of two passages, one in English, one in French.

Examiners may choose to gloss vocabulary or allusions in either or both of these sections. You are required to pass this examination before progressing to Honours.

There are two formative assignments in the year to help students prepare for the examination.