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

Undergraduate Course: French theatre (1700s-1830s) and the making of revolutions: politics, love and fantasy... (ELCF10072)

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
SummaryThis course will explore the ways in which (pre/post) Revolutionary playwrights defied the 'dominant' ideology by bringing to the fore 'alien' notions, such as gender, race and class, natural right, and have thus shaped today's notions of ethics, individual freedom, equality, and welfare. In other words, despite the generally accepted opposition between "the twilight of the Enlightenment and the 'triumphant' dawn of Romanticism", how did playwrights (male and female) from both eras experiment with 'new' dramatic forms to convey their beliefs in a new order and better society, and thus express a common experience of revolutionary France, of the collective, and of selfhood? How did they engage with contemporary history and society ? Last but not least, what does the reception of plays by writers such as Marivaux, Beaumarchais, Olympe de Gouge, Victor Hugo and Alfred de Musset tell us about how subversive and deviant, or innovative these dramatists were? and why do some of them still captivate modern audiences, or have recently sparked off unprecedented interest? Finally (but perhaps not...), what of the power of love and fantasy in works seemingly driven by a revolutionary impulse?
Course description French theatre in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries arose as a major forum for the dissemination of philosophical and political debates that led up to the French Revolution, and later, following Napoleon's fall, to more political unrest during the Bourbon Restoration (1814-1830). It also gave birth to the drame bourgeois, and the drame romantique, both questioning and rejecting the 'old ways', be it at an aesthetic or ideological level, or both. While exploring the ways in which playwrights (both male and female) engaged with contemporary politics and societal issues, this course will also reflect, through close analysis of the primary texts, on the many dramaturgic strategies (e.g: recycling of well-trodden comedic plots, of romantic doomed tales, etc., and also stylitic and thematic innovation, paving the way for more literary revolutions ) which these authors used through their texts to convey their critique of, and beliefs in, a better society, while investing their texts with an everlasting appeal to today's audiences.
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.
Additional Costs Purchase of primary reading books
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  18
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% Coursework:

60%: Final essay (1800 words)

20%: Wiki contributions

20%: Oral presentation (individual or in small groups of 2/3): either in situ or PP+ 5/10mins audio recording (embedded in PP or separate file)
Feedback The feedback given to you throughout the course is designed to help you improve your future work: you will be given both formative and summative feedback. Formative parts of the assessment: you will receive feedback on your presentation, and more generally on your engagement with the course.
You are also encouraged to highlight specific aspects you would particularly like to have feedback on. During the course, your tutor will take time to invite feedback about the course, and to give feedback on progress thus far. From week 8 onwards (or earlier if you wish), you will be able to bring along an essay plan in time for the feedback to be useful for the end-of-course essay. You will also be given summative feedback on your end-of-course essay
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand and reflect critically on pre-Revolutionary, Revolutionary and Romantic plays, the theatrical and aesthetic movements, political and ideological contexts that underpinned the evolution of French Theatre.
  2. Read and analyse the prescribed works within their literary, political and cultural contexts and show a clear appreciation of the aesthetic and ideological features of these texts, and employ relevant technical terminology associated with theatre.
  3. Demonstrate an awareness of performance and theatricality, of the relevant socio-cultural contexts and conceptual frameworks (e.g Enlightenment philosophy; drame bourgeois / drame romantique, gender politics, Romanticism).
  4. Engage in research on French theatre, and construct clear, coherent arguments - in both oral and written forms - based on evidence from primary and secondary sources and produce analytical essays.
  5. Exercise autonomy and initiative, taking responsibility for the work of others in group work and develop the ability to reflect on the usefulness of materials for fellow students in a variety of interactive contexts.
Reading List
The texts studied may vary from one year to another; but the course will generally cover plays by eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century playwrights, and will consist of
Introduction plus 2 or 3 two-hour sessions per text, followed by overview/ revision classes
Set texts will vary from year to year but will normally consist of a selection from the following :

Marivaux, L'Ile des esclaves (1725)
Marivaux, Les Fausses confidences (1737)
Beaumarchais, Le Barbier de Séville (1775)
Beaumarchais, Le Mariage de Figaro (1778)
Olympe de Gouges, L'Esclavage des Noirs (1792)
Alfred de Musset Lorenzaccio(1833)
Alfred de Musset, Les Caprices de Marianne (1833)
Victor Hugo, Ruy Blas (1838)
A. Auvain, H. Goldwyn and P. Gethner (eds.), Anthologie du théâtre des femmes, 16ième-18ième siècle, vol. 3, Saint-Etienne: Presses Universitaires de Saint-Etienne, 2011
Voltaire, Zaïre (1732) Jean Goldzinck (ed.), Garnier-Flammarion 2004


Lever, Maurice Grande et petite histoire de la Comédie-Française : le Siècle des Lumières, 1680-1799. (Fayard, 2006)
Le Théâtre français du XIXe siècle, ed. Hélène Laplace-Claverie, Sylvain Ledda, Florence Naugrette (Paris, Éd. L'avant-scène théâtre, 2008)
Cecilia Feilla, The Sentimental theatre of the French Revolution (Ashgate, 2013)
McCready, Susan, The Limits of Romantic Theatre (Durham UP, 2007)
Ubersfeld, Anne, Le Drame romantique (Belin, 1993)
Diderot, Entretiens sur le fils naturel (1757)
Victor Hugo, 'Preface' to Cromwell (1827)

Further reading for Dissertation preparation
Brown, Gregory S., A field of Honor: writers, court culture and public theater in French literary life from Racine to the Revolution (Columbia University Press, 2005)
Finch, Alison, Women's writing in the nineteenth century (Cambridge UP, 2000), chapter 8.
Goldzink, Jean, Comique et comédie au siècle des Lumières (L'Harmattan,2004)
Kadler, Eric H. Literary figures in French drama (1784-1834) (the Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,1986)
Letzer, J. and Adelson, R., Women Writing Opera: Creativity and Controversy in the Age of the French Revolution (California UP, 2001) (if you are interested in that aspect of theatre studies)
Lever, Maurice Grande et petite histoire de la Comédie-Française : le Siècle des Lumières, 1680-1799 (Fayard, 2006)
Maslan, Susan Revolutionary Acts: Theater, Democracy, and the French Revolution (John Hopkins, 2005)
Perchellet, Jean-Pierre, L'Héritage classique : la tragédie entre 1680 et 1814 (Honoré Champion, 2004)
Stendhal, Racine et Shakespeare (1823) [any edition]
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course has the same aims as all French Options, which are well established and universally praised by both students and external examiners as fostering depth of understanding of rich intellectual fields and the ability to write and speak about them intelligently and cogently in French.
KeywordsDELC 1700s Theatre Enlightenment Romantiscism Opera Drame bourgeois Drame romantique French Revo
Course organiserDr Severine Genieys-Kirk
Tel: (0131 6)51 1734
Course secretaryMrs Vivien MacNish Porter
Tel: (0131 6)50 3528
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