Desire in the Text: Romanticism to Decadence - FR645

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


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.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Essay (2,400 words) – 60%
Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%
Critical Writing Exercise (500) words – 20%

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)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- Demonstrate a detailed and critical appreciation of a range of prose and poetry produced in France during the 19th century;
- Demonstrate analytical skills for the study of structure, prose and poetic technique, the portrayal of desire and its critical connections to aspects of modernity;
- Demonstrate their skills relating to close reading and evaluation of literary texts;
- Demonstrate their reading and listening speeds in French.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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