Paris: Myth and Reality in the 19th century - FREN5930

Looking for a different module?

Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Among the capital cities of Europe, Paris has a particularly rich and interesting history. In the revolution of 1789 and subsequent political upheavals in the course of the nineteenth century (1830, 1848, 1870-71), the city played a key role in deciding the fate of the nation. In the same period, it grew dramatically in size and emerged as a modern metropolis. Widely divergent views were expressed as to the wholesomeness of city living; opinion differed equally violently among writers as to the benefits to be derived from the explosive growth of the city. The module will examine conditions of life in the real Paris of the 19th Century and in particular the radical and highly controversial changes to the face of the city brought about during the Second Empire under the direction of Baron Haussmann. The main focus of the module, however, will be the images of the city as mediated in contemporary fiction (Balzac and Zola amongst others), poetry (Baudelaire) and painting (Manet's vision of city life).


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

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

Indicative reading

Any edition:

Balzac - 'Le Père Goriot'
Baudelaire - 'Tableaux Parisiens' in 'Les Fleurs du Mal'
Maupassant - 'Bel-Ami'
Zola - 'Nana'

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- Demonstrate a critical appreciation of a wide range of literary and visual works produced in France during the nineteenth century;
- Explore the literary, artistic and historical background of different works, and assess and critically analyse the complex links between Paris as a real city and its representation by writers and artists;
- Demonstrate their analytical skills relating to close reading and evaluation of French literary texts;
- Demonstrate their reading speed 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.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.