French 637: Littérature française du XIXe

If this nineteenth centenary did not invent the French short story, it reinvented it.  Besides noted masters of the genre like Mérimée or Maupassant, whose names are today synonymous with the French short story, we will also read “short” texts by Balzac, Barbey, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Villiers, and Gautier.  We will use the short story as a gateway to arrive at a more general understanding of how and why literary genres changed in the nineteenth century.  We will, for example, discover how Baudelaire’s famous prose poems—some of which have plots just like short stories—first appeared in a newspaper as the “feuilleton,” the designation usually reserved for installments of serialized novels, themselves mirroring certain aspects of short stories.  Ultimately, in gaining knowledge of the historical iterations of generic categories, students will be asked to examine the critical utility and limitations of such categories.  Class assignments, targeting the development of close reading skills, will give students the opportunity to practice both written and oral commentaries in formats to the department’s M.A. exam.