Desire in the Text: Romanticism to Decadence - FR645

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) DR L Duffy







This module presents a broadly chronological survey of canonical works of French literature of the nineteenth century centred on the theme of desire. More specifically, these works explore contemporary codes of love and marriage, shifting gender identities, capitalism, consumerism, moral, social and sexual transgression, alienation, lethargy, and death. The module takes fiction of the Romantic era as its starting point, exploring the frustration of desire associated with the 'mal du siècle' (the disillusionment and melancholy experienced by (primarily) young adults in the early nineteenth century). It concludes with naturalist and 'decadent' works of the fin de siècle, which are concerned with a discrepancy between desire and a generalised depletion of the energy required to fulfil it. The module identifies desire (whether satisfied, unfulfilled or conspicuously absent) as a central preoccupation in French cultural production of the nineteenth century. It also examines the extent to which desire is a strategy for expressing contemporary concerns and anxieties around specific aspects of modern life with which the human subject was coming rapidly and problematically to terms.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

• Essay (2.250 words) – 40%
• Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%
• Examination (2 hours) – 40%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading:

Balzac, H de. (1846), La Cousine Bette (Paris: Livre de Poche, 1978)
Chateaubriand, F-R de. (1802), Atala. René. Le Dernier Abencerage (Paris: Gallimard, 1984)
Flaubert, G. (1857), Madame Bovary (Paris: Flammarion, 1986)
Rachilde [pseud. Marguérie Eymery-Vallette], Monsieur Vénus (Paris: Flammarion, 1977)
Sand, G. (1832), Indiana (Paris: Gallimard, 1984)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete the module will:

11.1 have gained a detailed and critical appreciation of a range of prose and poetry produced in France during the 19th century;
11.2 have developed analytical skills for the study of structure, prose and poetic technique, the portrayal of desire and its critical connections to aspects of modernity
11.3 have developed and consolidated their skills relating to close reading and evaluation of literary texts
11.4 have developed and improved their reading and listening speeds in French

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