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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : European Languages and Cultures - French

Undergraduate Course: Reading French Verse 1857-1876 (ELCF10059)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe two decades covered by this course saw the apotheosis of French verse, with the composition of many of the most famous poems in the language (such as Baudelaire's "Le Cygne" or Mallarme's "Apres-midi d'un faune", as well as all Rimbaud's verse), exploiting to the full the mechanisms of traditional French versification. But at the same time, that exploitation exposed the limits of the tradition; and this period also saw the beginning of the end for the hegemony of traditional verse forms. The course will concentrate first on giving students an understanding of how French verse works, prosodically and semantically; then we will examine how it evolved, and how the links between verse forms and the idea of poetry developed. The poets studied will be Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarme.
Course description We will be working with the verse poetry that Baudelaire, Mallarm├ę, Verlaine and Rimbaud wrote and / or published between 1857 and 1876. That verse has had a determining influence on the evolution of poetry ever since, not only in France, but throughout the world. It marks the final flowering of the great French verse tradition going back to the 16th century, with its rigid system of rhymes and of syllable-counting; we will learn carefully how to understand that tradition, how to appreciate the rhythms of lines, and what conventions the poets were working with. But at the same time, those four poets created a radical new poetic world in which every poem always strains against the rules. That strain gradually leads the rules, one by one, to crack, and poetry to acquire a new freedom which is both exhilarating and terrifying. We will follow though the ways in which that freedom develops, and its consequences, which continue to reverberate throughout the arts today. Seminars on the course will be student led. All discussion and assessment will be in French.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: French 2 Literature and Culture (ELCF08012) AND French 2 Language (ELCF08013)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Entry to Honours in French
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To demonstrate an advanced knowledge of the rules of French prosody in the period in question, and an ability to analyse the ways in which the poets studied apply and distend these rules.
  2. To select and apply relevant theoretical and methodological approaches in their critical evaluation of the poems studied, and to demonstrate mastery of relevant technical terminology.
  3. To assess and synthesise primary and secondary sources and to engage critically with these sources, showing awareness of nuance and accommodating ambiguities.
  4. To construct coherent arguments which engage effectively with the sources and the relevant contexts and to present them with a high level of clarity in both oral and written form
  5. To demonstrate autonomy and initiative in their activities, carry out independent research under the guidance of the tutor, and to show awareness of their own and others┬┐ roles and responsibilities as part of a team.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students will have further developed their skills in the areas of research and enquiry, personal and intellectual autonomy, communication, and personal effectiveness. For further specification of these skills see the university's graduate and employability skills framework at
KeywordsDELC Fr Verse
Course organiserProf Peter Dayan
Tel: (0131 6)50 8424
Course secretaryMrs Elsie Gach
Tel: (0131 6)50 8421
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