French 402 in ADMN-211B (MWF 13:45-14:50): Modern French Literature

Prof: Mark Jensen
Office: ADMN-220
Phone: (253) 535-7219
E-mail: jensenmk@plu.edu
Web page: www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
Office hours: MWF 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.


Required purchase:

      • Baudouin, Charles. Psychanalyse de Victor Hugo.  Paris: Imago, 2008; ISBN 978-2-84952-065-9.
      • Carton, Jean-Paul.  Poésie française : Premiers exercices d'analyse.  New York: Peter Lang, 1999; ISBN 978-0-82044-054-5.
      • Hugo, Victor.  Hernani.  Ed. Florence Naugrette.  Paris: GF Flammarion, 2012; ISBN 978-2-0812-6940-8.
      • Lagarde, André and Laurent Michard.  XIXe siècle, les grands auteurs français : Anthologie et histoire littéraire.  Paris: Bordas, 1993; ISBN 978-2-04-016216-0.

Course goals

This course will study French literature of the nineteenth century, with a focus on the poetry and, in particular, the poetry of Victor Hugo.  

This Monday-Wednesday-Friday course is structured according to the day of the week:

  • On Mondays, using a traditional anthology, we shall review eleven of the major French authors of the nineteenth century, studying extracts from some of their best-known works and discussing their lives and the times in which they lived.  
  • On Wednesdays, we shall intensively engage with the mechanics of literary production, working through an introduction to the analysis of French poetry to acquaint ourselves with the poetic techniques and conventions current in the 19th century and some critical approaches that enable us to get at aspects of the work that in reading are often felt more than understood and reflected upon.  We will also try writing some French verse ourselves.  
  • On Fridays, we shall focus on Victor Hugo, the greatest author of the nineteenth century in France and probably of all of French literature.  We'll consider a variety of perspectives, reading one of his works in its entirety and parts of many others.  As a heuristic device we'll engage his work from a theoretical perspective by reading in its entirety Charles Baudouin's classic of psychoanalytic criticism, Psychanalyse de Victor Hugo.  Our efforts to understand and come to terms with Baudouin's approach will involve grappling with many questions that are fundamental to the study of literature and to culture, and more generally to the problem of understanding the human condition.

In the "literary-historical" part of the course (on Mondays), a combined mini-lecture and discussion format will acquaint students in an admittedly superficial fashion with the French literary tradition of the nineteenth century.

In the "poetic atelier" part of the course (on Wednesdays), students will begin by spending three weeks working through Prof. Carton's introduction to French poetry, which begins with an exemplary analysis of Charles Baudelaire's sonnet « La cloche fêlée ».  (This poem can also be found on p. 442 of our literary anthology.)  Students will then apply notions that Carton introduces while closely analyzing other poems, using his challenging, meticulous exercises as a guide.  An open-book midterm on March 23 will consist of a short poem by Hugo that students will analyze by applying the techniques introduced by Carton.

The "psychocritical" part of the course (on Fridays) is meant to be the most unusual, adventurous, challenging, and difficult, part of the course, but it is also, perhaps, at least potentially, the most interesting, rewarding, memorable, and provocative part.  Students will engage with admittedly difficult texts and theoretical arguments with far-reaching philosophical implications even as they struggle with the works of the greatest master of French prose and poetry who ever wrote.  Hugo was a great visionary poet, and this part of the course aspires to have a vertiginous quality worthy of the author of Les contemplations and La légende des siècles. 

In the second part of the course, you'll write a ten-page paper (2,500 words) about one of Hugo's poems, some aspect of Hugo's life or work that has intrigued you, or, if you prefer, a literary-critical response to some aspect of Charles Baudouin's book.  This paper, written in French, will require research and will be due at the final exam (May 24).  Students will also discuss their research in informal in-class presentations on the last two Fridays of the course (May 13 & 20).

There will be very frequent unannounced short reading quizzes to encourage students to keep up with the reading.  The best two thirds of the grades on these quizzes will count as 20% of each student's final grade.

A few more words about the goals of French 402:  these derive from the fact that literary study engages an array of cultural traditions that use the creative resources of language to explore the entire range of human experience.  As Paul Bénichou has written, "As far back as we can go in the history of civilizations, literature has served to instruct humanity, offering to be an interpreter of the human condition and a guide to humanity's views and its choices."  The practice of reading literary texts exercises the imagination, cultivates the capacity for understanding ambiguity and complexity, and can instill a sensitivity to the diversities of human existence.  Literary study also builds skills of analytical and interpretive argument and helps one become a more creative and critical writer.  Along the way, countless bits of miscellaneous knowledge about important authors, notable literary works, their constitutive features, rhetorical figures essential to the sophisticated use of language like metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony, and allusions that contribute to literary meaning and the flavor and tone of historical periods are accumulated.  The ability to grasp conventions and symbols and how they function in literary works of a particular tradition is enhanced by the study of different genres of literature, as well as the ability to differentiate form from content in literary works and explain how these are interrelated and to describe the formal characteristics of works.  Ultimately, the ability to explore and appreciate critical perspectives on literary works and related general cultural and social movements that have influenced not only the form and content of literary works and other forms of cultural production, but human lives as well, is acquired, so that one can begin to appraise their influence and do justice to them.  It is perhaps too much to hope that students will go very far toward comparing different critical interpretations and their merits, but it is reasonable to expect them to gain a greater awareness of the ways literary works convey and subvert meaning at multiple levels.  Glimpses into how critical terminology has developed in grappling with problems of interpretation and understanding some of the factors involved in changes of critical paradigms make students more alert, sensitive observers of changes and movements in their own increasingly fast-moving culture.  This sensitivity will help students compose interpretive critical responses of their own.   For what distinguishes great or enduring literature if not its capacity to speak to readers far removed in time and space from its origins?  All of these activities will further students' pursuit of the Integrated Learning Objectives (ILOs) declared by the faculty of Pacific Lutheran University by fostering critical reflection and skills of expression and interaction.  And it goes without saying, of course, that work in this class is intended to further develop students' ability to speak and write correctly, effectively, and authentically in French; to deepen their mastery of elements of grammar essential to communicating effectively in French; to enlarge their vocabulary in French; to enhance the accuracy of their French pronunciation; and to make them more aware of the cultural, social, and intellectual dimensions of communication in French.

Class Schedule

Mon., Feb. 8

Introduction.  Lagarde & Michard, 3-12.  

Wed., Feb. 10

Carton, 1-8 & 21-24 (prepare exercises for discussion in class). 

Fri., Feb. 12

(1) Lagarde & Michard, 153-59 (life of Hugo).  (2) Baudouin, Avant-propos, 19-20.       

Mon., Feb. 14


Wed., Feb. 17

Carton, 8-17 & 24-27 (prepare exercises for discussion in class).

Fri., Feb. 19

(1) Lagarde & Michard, 235-36 (Hugo's dramatic works).  (2) Hernani, Préface & Acte I.  (3) Baudouin, Ch. 1, 21-35.

Mon., Feb. 22

Lagarde & Michard, 13-21 (Mme de Staël).

Wed., Feb. 24

Carton, 17-20 & 28-30 (prepare exercises for discussion in class).  

Fri., Feb. 26

(1) Hernani, Acte II.  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 2, 36-54.

Mon., Feb. 29

Lagarde & Michard, 42-45, 50-51, 70-77 (Chateaubriand).

Wed., Mar. 2

Carton, 67-80 (Musset).  

Fri., Mar. 4

(1) Hernani, Acte III.  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 3, 55-79.

Mon., Mar. 7

Lagarde & Michard, 85-95 (Lamartine).   

Wed., Mar. 9

Carton, 81-90 (Hugo, Demain, dès l'aube).  

Fri., Mar. 11

(1) Hernani, Acte IV.  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 4, 80-105. 

Mon., Mar. 14

Lagarde & Michard, 123-36 (Vigny).  

Wed., Mar. 16

Carton, 81-90 (Hugo, Demain, dès l'aube, continued).  

Fri., Mar. 18

(1) Hernani, Acte V.  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 5, 106-30.

Mon., Mar. 21

Practice/review for midterm.

Wed., Mar. 23


Mon., Apr. 4

Lagarde & Michard, 205-09 & 211-19 (Musset).   

Wed., Apr. 6

Carton, 91-102 (Hugo, Mors). 

Fri., Apr. 8

(1) Lagarde & Michard, 160-66 (Hugo visionnaire).  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 6, 131-50.

Mon., Apr. 11

Lagarde & Michard, 295-302 (Sand).  

Wed., Apr. 13

Carton, 113-20 (Gautier). 

Fri., Apr. 15

(1) Lagarde & Michard, 166-72 (Hugo engagé ).  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 7, 151-76.

Mon., Apr. 18

Lagarde & Michard, 303-07 & 310-17 (Balzac).

Wed., Apr. 20

Carton, 113-20 (Gautier, continued).

Fri., Apr. 22

(1) Lagarde & Michard, 172-84 (Hugo contemplatif ).  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 8, 177-99.

Mon., Apr. 25

Lagarde et Michard, 327-30 & 332-38 (Stendhal).

Wed., Apr. 27

Carton, 121-34 (Leconte de Lisle).

Fri., Apr. 29

(1) Lagarde & Michard, 185-94 (Hugo épique).  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 9, 200-24.

Mon., May 2

Lagarde & Michard, 429-30, 432-37, 442 (passage about le spleen), 449, & 454 (Baudelaire). 

Wed., May 4

Carton, 135-48 (Baudelaire, Correspondances).  

Fri., May 6

(1) Lagarde & Michard, 195-204 (Hugo romancier).  (2) Baudouin, Ch. 10, 225-46.

Mon., May 9

Lagarde et Michard, 455-68 (Flaubert).     

Wed., May 11

Carton, 149-62 (Baudelaire, L'harmonie du soir).

Fri., May 13

(1) Hugo critique.  (2) Student presentations.  
Mon., May 16 Lagarde & Michard, 483-92 (Zola). Wed., May 18 Carton, 175-92 (Anna de Noailles).  Fri., May 20

(1) Student presentations.  (2) Review for final.  

Tues., May 24, 11:00 a.m.-12:50 p.m.


Calculation of grades

Grades will be determined as follows:

    • 20% Participation
    • 20% Reading quizzes (best two thirds)
    • 10% French verse
    • 20% Research paper
    • 10% Midterm exam
    • 20% Final exam (May 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.)

NOTE: Students must not cheat or plagiarize, and they must not condone these behaviors or assist others who plagiarize.  This includes reliance on machines (i.e. computers) to translate sentences from English to French.  Academic misconduct jeopardizes the career of the individual student involved, and also undermines the scholastic achievements of all PLU students in the sense that it contravenes the mission of this institution.  Students are responsible for doing their own work, thereby insuring the integrity of their academic records.  In addition, civil conversation is central to the university's academic enterprise and guided by faculty expertise.  The university is committed to protecting the rights of community members to engage in dialogue and express ideas in an environment that is free from harassment, discrimination, and exploitation.  This freedom of expression does not, however, entail the freedom to threaten, stalk, intimidate, harass, or abuse.  Students are therefore expected to treat every individual with respect and civility.  (See Student Code of Conduct, p. 12)  An additional note:  If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.  If you have questions concerning the services available for students with disabilities at PLU, please contact the Office of Disability Support Services, x7206.


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