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Bestsellers of the Nineteenth Century

Module Code: FR233
Module Name: Bestsellers of the Nineteenth Century
Module Coordinator: Dr Margaux Whiskin
Term 1, 10-12h in FAB1.15
Module Credits: 15

Module description

This module aims to examine texts by four of France's greatest writers. The nineteenth century was the heyday of the novel and writers tried to convey the whole of society in their works. We will take François-René de Chateaubriand's short story René, George Sand's Indiana, Gustave Flaubert's world classic Madame Bovary, and Emile Zola's La Bête humaine, and examine them not just as literary texts but also as social documents. We will consider the impact of the Revolution, the Restoration of the monarchy and the Second Empire, the themes of Paris versus the provinces, the position of women, and class conflict. We will be able to explore the changes in French society that took place from the time of Napoleon Bonaparte to the early years of the Third Republic. The changes will be charted alongside literary developments from Romanticism to Naturalism in order to answers the questions what makes a bestseller? and what is a writer's relationship with the society in which he or she lives?

Reading List:

  • Chateaubriand, Atala, René, Les aventures du dernier Abencérage (Paris: Flammarion, 1996)
  • Sand, George, Indiana (Paris: Gallimard, 1984)
  • Flaubert, Gustave, Madame Bovary (Paris: Gallimard, 2001)
  • Zola, Emile, La Bête humaine (Paris: Gallimard, 2001)
For non-francophone Erasmus students or students from outside French Studies, these texts can be studied in translation:
  • Chateaubriand, René, translated by A. S. Kline (London: Poetry in Translation, 2015). Also available for free online at:
  • Sand, George, Indiana, translated by Sylvia Raphael (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • Flaubert, Gustave, Madame Bovary, translated by Margaret Mauldon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • Zola, Emile, La Bête humaine, translated by Roger Pearson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)


In term 1, times and room to be confirmed


Lectures and seminars will be face-to-face

Assessment Method:

  • 2750-3000 word comparative essay (80%)
  • 10mn video presentation on one of the set texts (20%)