Sister Arts: Writing and Visual Culture in Modern France - FR621

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 3)
Spring 6 15 (7.5) DR T Baldwin checkmark-circle


The mutual influence of the visual arts and literature is both a major theme of French culture and an important area of current academic research. The eighteenth-century 'philosophe' Denis Diderot (1713–1784) was the first major French author to write at length about painting, and he bequeathed to later writers such as Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) a new literary genre, the ‘salon’. This module explores how visual and textual materials (including paintings, photographs, novels, poems and essays) interact across a range of historical periods and artistic movements in modern France, enriching students’ understanding of both the visual arts and literature.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Essay (2,000 words) – 40%
Presentation (15 minutes) – 20%
Examination (2 hours) – 40%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading:

Balzac, H. de. (2005). Le Chef d'œuvre inconnu. Paris: Gallimard
Baudelaire, C. (2010). 'Le Peintre de la vie moderne'. Paris: Fayard
Diderot, D. (2008). Salon de 1767. Paris: Hermann
Proust, M. (2003). Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu. Paris: Gallimard (Extracts to be provided)
Zola, E. (2006). L’Œuvre. Paris: Gallimard

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate a systematic appreciation of the differences and similarities between the manner in which French writers of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries seek to populate their texts with works of art, particularly paintings, through discussion of texts by Denis Diderot, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Emile Zola and Marcel Proust;
Demonstrate a coherent understanding of the literary guises in which works of art, particularly, paintings, can be made to appear;
Demonstrate their critical understanding of a particular and vivid form of the relationship between fictional text and 'world';
Demonstrate their critical appreciation for some of the ways in which the literary and the non-literary intersect;
Demonstrate a professional ability to analyse and describe fictional narratives, particularly those containing descriptions of works of art;
Demonstrate their ability to read confidently in French.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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