Twentieth Century France in Crisis - FREN3100

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 4 15 (7.5) Lucy O'Meara checkmark-circle


This module explores how four major 'crises' in twentieth-century France are reflected in cinema: World War I, World War II, the Algerian crisis, and the events of May 1968. Some films are made not long after the events depicted with events, whereas others were made decades later. The module will combine study of the historical periods depicted with analysis of the set films. Through its study of major international conflicts, the occupation of France, a war of decolonisation and a major student and worker revolt, the module will explore themes such as socio-political agendas, nationalist ideology, colonisation and decolonisation, and the politics of (collective and individual) memory.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

• Screencast – 20%
• Essay Plan – 20%
• Essay (2,000 words) – 60%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading and Film List

McMillan, J.F. (1992). Twentieth-Century France: Politics and Society 1898-1991. London: Hodder/Arnold.
Sowerwine, C. (2009). Culture, Society, and the Making of the Republic. London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Films (in French with English subtitles):
La Grande Illusion. (1937) Film. Directed by Jean Renoir. [DVD] France: StudioCanal.
La Vie et rien d'autre. (1989) Film. Directed by Bertrand Tavernier. [DVD] France: KinoVideo.
Le Dernier Métro. (1980) Film. Directed by François Truffaut. [DVD] France: Gaumont.
Au-revoir les enfants. (1987) Film. Directed by Louis Malle. [DVD] France: MK2 Diffusion.
La Bataille d'Alger. (1966) Film. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. [DVD] Italie/Algérie: Rialto Pictures.
Milou en mai. (1990) Film. Directed by Louis Malle. [DVD] France: Pyramide Distribution.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Show an appreciation of a range of films inspired by the four crises (World War I (1914-18), World War II (1939-45), the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62) and the Student Protests of 1968;
Demonstrate familiarity with the cultural and historical background of the works studied, and thereby assess the links between events and the films;
Demonstrate an ability to analyse and describe films (in particular, characters and events);
Demonstrate their critical understanding of historical milestones in contemporary France and their cinematic representation;
Show an appreciation of cultural diversity in contemporary political debates in France.


  1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage 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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