Crossing Borders: Travel in Modern French Writing - FR646

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5)


Prerequisite: FREN6480 – French Upper Intermediate B2, or FREN6520 – French Intermediate B1-B2 (Intensive)





This module will explore the evolution of the notion of travel in modern French thought and literature by looking at a wide range of French travel writing in prose as well as poetry, essays, and travel diaries from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. The objective is to show how travel writing questions the relevance of myths about travel itself (often seen as a means to discover new worlds and to allow different cultures to blend) or about the other and otherworldliness.
The module takes Arthur de Gobineau's and Victor Hugo's fictional travels to the East as a starting point to explore how 19th-century orientalism fed an imaginary, idealised or demonised conception of the other. From there we will move on to different (post)modern texts by Victor Segalen, Henri Michaux and Nicolas Bouvier, demonstrating how travel and writing can work together to cross borders of a cultural but also linguistic and stylistic nature. More specifically, these different works explore themes such as exoticism, (post)modern conceptions of intercultural relationships, opacity, loneliness, fragmentation, and chaotic trajectories.


This module appears in:

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:

Bouvier, N. (1996). Le Poisson-Scorpion. Paris: Gallimard.
Gobineau, De, A. (1878). Nouvelles Asiatiques. Paris: Gallimard.
Hugo, V. (1829). Les Orientales. [Extracts will be supplied/scanned by the convenor].
Michaux, H. (1929). Ecuador. Paris: Gallimard.
Segalen, V. (1907). Les Immémoriaux. [Extracts will be supplied].
Segalen, V. (1999). Essai sur l'exotisme. Paris: Livre de Poche.

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 travel writing produced by French writers during the 19th and 20th century;
- Demonstrate confident and coherent analytical skills for the study of structure, prose and poetic technique, the portrayal of travel and its critical connections to aspects of (post)modernity;
- Accurately evaluate of literary texts by close reading of literary passages;
- Demonstrate their ability to read French quickly, and to listen and understand spoken French accurately.

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