Encore! Music and Society in Modern French Culture - FREN5002

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Spring Term 5 15 (7.5) Lucy O'Meara checkmark-circle


This module introduces students to key concepts in the analysis of musical products such as opera, traditional songs, pop and counter-culture songs. It will also introduce students to the use of music in literature in France from the eighteenth century to the present. It will do so by considering a selection of relevant cultural products from a variety of sources, such as eighteenth- and nineteenth-century opera (e.g. Jean-Philippe Rameau; Georges Bizet), literature on music (e.g. Balzac's 'Sarrasine'), major French and Belgian twentieth-century chanson artists (e.g. Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens) and contemporary singers and rappers (e.g. Stromae, Baloji, Damso).

The module will use musical products as a point of access to understand French and in some cases Belgian culture and history and analyses how these mirror, criticise and try to change French social, cultural and political beliefs. A recurring theme will be how French and francophone music mirrors and interrogates the relationship of Europe with other cultures, notably through the lens of colonialism and its aftermaths. Gender and class will also recur as themes. Special attention will be given throughout the module to the textual and literary aspect of musical products, focusing on close readings of libretti and lyrics.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Creative response and reflection (500 words) (20%)
Essay plan (500 words) (20%)
Essay (2000 words) (60%)

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Balzac, H de. (1831) 'Sarrasine' (any edition; freely available online).
Cordier, A. (2014). Post-War French Popular Music: Cultural Identity and the Brel-Brassens-Ferré Myth. Farnham: Ashgate.
Durand, A-P. (2002). Black, Blanc, Beur: Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture in the Francophone World: Rap Music and Hip Hop in the Francophone World. Lanham: Scarecrow Press.
Gerhard, A. (1998). The Urbanization of Opera: Theater in Paris in the Nineteenth Century, trans. by Mary Whittall. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Haworth, R. (2018). 'French chanson: Etat présent'. French Studies 72.1, 87-96.
Lacombe, H. (1997). Les Voies de l'opéra français au XIXe siècle. Paris: Fayard.
Lebrun, B. (2009). Protest Music in France: Production, Identity and Audiences. Farnham: Ashgate.
Starobinski, J. (2006). L’Invention de la liberté 1700-1789. 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 nuanced awareness of key aspects of French (and in some instances Belgian) culture, history and society in relation to music as a cultural product, and a critical understanding of the ways in which this has developed across the decades;
Demonstrate critical understanding of French society from the eighteenth century to the present in relation to music as well as music production, dissemination, consumption, and representation;
Apply concepts and principles derived from the analysis of musical products to achieve a critical understanding of French and Belgian social, political and cultural history;
Demonstrate the ability to closely read lyrics, critically evaluate textual sources, and analytically evaluate their limitations;
Demonstrate awareness of the importance of music in processes of inculturation, acculturation and the dissemination of socio-political ideas.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 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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