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FR121-30 The Story of Modern France

School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Undergraduate Level 1
Module leader
Cathy Hampton
Credit value
Module duration
23 weeks
70% coursework, 30% exam
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

Why is modern France so obsessed by the past?
What do we mean by 'Frenchness'?
What are the major landmarks in the creation of modern France?
What is 'culture générale’?
These are just some of the questions we will explore on this introductory module. Examining primary texts from major periods and events in French history, the module will equip you with an understanding of the nature of modern France. We will be guided on our journey through French history using a range of sources and approaches, from the graffiti of the events of May 1968 to the prints of the French Revolution in 1789, and from tales of the ancient Gauls to films and texts which reflect France's ongoing obsession with its (often controversial) recent past. The module will provide you with the foundation to study further aspects of French and francophone culture in the later stages of your degree.

Module web page

Module aims
  1. To allow students to become acquainted with landmark events that shaped the development of modern France.
  2. To enable students to consider different forms of textual and visual production inspired by those events (political, literary, historical, theoretical)
  3. To enable students to form a good understanding of French ‘culture générale’.
  4. To enable students to build a picture of what constitutes ‘Frenchness’ over time.
  5. To introduce students to a range of critical and analytical approaches to the material studied.
Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.


  1. Introduction: France: myth, memory and Marianne!
  2. Revolutionary Prints and Pamphlets: The Story of Bastille
  3. Olympe de Gouges’ Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoynne and the French Revolution
  4. Theory 1: Other voices: feminism in early texts; the story of Bastille after 1789
  5. Foucault, Surveiller et Punir (1975, extracts): investigating liberty: the individual and the State
  6. Two Frances ? The Dreyfus affair and its impact (1894 – 1906)
  7. Reading week
  8. De Gaulle, national narratives and their contestation (1940s; 1968)
  9. Audiard, Un Héros très discret (1996). Film
  10. Theory 2: Deconstructing Texts : story, history and identity in Un Héros très discret


  1. Chanson de Roland 1 : Borders and boundaries: self and other viewed from pre-modern France
  2. Chanson de Roland 2 : binary oppositions and boundaries : gender ; religion
  3. Montaigne, ‘Des Cannibales’ : The Colonial Project: ways of interrogating self and other
  4. Theory 3: Modernity and its discontents. Gender and post-colonial theory as responses to Enlightenment views of self and society
  5. Algeria : Soustelle, Lettre ouverte aux victimes de la colonisation (1973)
  6. Reading Week
  7. Condé, Un Cœur à rire et à pleurer (1999): post-colonial conflicts
  8. Condé 2: Conflicts in language, culture and identity
  9. Integration and Assimilation: the French Riots of 2005 and 2007
  10. Abd Al Malik, Gibraltar (2006). Album.


  1. Revision workshop 1
  2. Revision workshop 2
Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Students will be enabled to demonstrate: 1. an ability and willingness to engage with other cultures, appreciating their distinctive features;
  • 2. an ability to use the target language(s) for purposes of reading, understanding and analysing primary textual materials
  • 3. an ability to make use of critical theoretical materials to support their textual and cultural analysis, both in French and in English;
  • 4. an ability to present the results in their own manner but with due attention to accuracy, comprehensiveness and clarity.
Indicative reading list

Story of Modern France
Caiani, Ambrogio, Louis XVI and the French Revolution 5Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012)
Doyle, William, The Oxford History of the French Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
Germani, Ian, & Swales, Robin J. W. (ed), Symbols, Myths and Images of the French Revolution (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1998)
Germani, Ian, 'Revolutionary Rites: Political Demonstrations at the Place de la Nation, Paris', Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, 22 (2011), 57-97
Goodman, Dena (ed), Marie Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen (New York: Routledge, 2003)
Hesse, Carla, Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991)
Hould, Claudette, Images of the French Revolution (Québec: Les Publications du Québec, 1989)
Margerison, Kenneth, Pamphlets and Public Opinion (West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press 1998)
Soboul, Albert, Le Procès de Louis XVI (Paris: Julliard, 1966)
Walton, Charles, Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne; suivi de; Préface pour les dames, ou, Le portrait des femmes
Carol L. Sherman, Reading Olympe De Gouges (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013)
Sophie Mousset, Women's rights and the French Revolution: a biography of Olympe de Gouges (London and New York: Routledge, 2017)
Joan Wallach Scott, 'French Feminists and the Rights of 'Man': Olympe de Gouges's Declarations', History Workshop
No. 28 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 1-21 (21 pages)

WEEK 4: Early Modern Feminism
Helene Cixous, 'Le Rire de la Meduse' (English) Signs Vol. 1, No. 4 (Summer, 1976), pp. 875-893 (19 pages)
Margaret M King and Albert Rabil Jn, 'The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: Introduction to the Series' (University of Chicago Press: 2014)

WEEK 5: Foucault
Downing, Lisa, The Cambridge Introduction to Michel Foucault (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Garland, David, ‘Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, ¬¬An Exposition and Critique’, American Bar Foundation Research Journal 11, 4 (1986), 847-880.
Mills, Sara, Michel Foucault (London: Routledge, 2003), ch. 2 (‘Power and Institutions’), 33-52.
Schwan, Anne and Stephen Shapiro, How To Read Foucault's Discipline and Punish (London: Pluto Press, 2011).
Sheridan, Alan, Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth (London: Tavistock, 1980), ch. 2 (‘Society, Power, and Knowledge’), 135-163.

WEEK 7: The Dreyfus Affair

  • Charles Sowerwine, France since 1870 (2018), pp. 63–68
  • Ruth Harris, The Man on Devil’s Island: Alfred Dreyfus and the Affair that divided France (London: Penguin, 2011), Introduction, pp. 1–12 (For a summative piece on this topic, Chapters 5 and 6 on Zola and Brunetière are invaluable)
  • Venita Datta, Birth of a National Icon: The Literary Avant-Garde and the Origins of the Intellectual in France (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), Chapter Six

Further reading

  • Rochelle L. Miller and Tammy M. Proctor, Introduction to ‘The Dreyfus Affair in the Twenty-First Century: A Reconsideration’, Historical Reflections/ Réflexions Historiques, 31.3 (2005), pp. 319–22
  • Jeanne Humphries, ‘The Dreyfus Affair: A Woman’s Affair’, Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, 31.3 (2005), pp. 433–43
  • Nancy Fitch, ‘Mass culture, mass parliamentary politics and modern anti-Semitism: the Dreyfus Affair in rural France’, American Historical Review 97.1 (1992), 55–95
  • Marie Laurence Netter, ‘Ferdinand Brunetière contre les intellectuels’, Mil neuf cent (1993), 66–70

Primary (extracts from source book)
Charles de Gaulle, « Appel du 18 juin 1940 »
Agnès Humbert, Notre guerre (2010)
Benoîte et Flora Groult, Journal à quatre mains (1962)
Charles Rist, Une Saison gâtée (1983)
Michel Debré, Trois Républiques pour une France (1984)
Lucie Aubrac, Ils partiront dans l’ivresse (1997)
Guillaume Piketty, Français en Résistance (2009)
Révolution Nationale (Poster)
Maréchal, nous voilà! (Song)
Maréchal, nous voilà! (Song)
De Gaulle’s Radio Broadcast, 30 May 1968
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Forget 68 (2008)
Jean-Pierre Rey, La Marianne de 68 (Photo, 1968), and ‘The Revenge of the Little Hands’ (2018)
Posters from May ’68

Essential reading (available via the library and/or Talis aspire)

  • Robert Gildea, Marianne in Chains: In Search of the German Occupation, 1940–45 (London: Macmillan, 2002), Introduction, pp. 1-–19
  • Donald Reid and Daniel J. Sherman, introduction to ‘May ’68: New approaches, new perspectives’, special issue of French Historical Studies 41.2 (2018), 181–192

Further reading on de Gaulle and Resistance

  • Sudhir Hazareesingh, In the Shadow of the General: Modern France and the Myth of de Gaulle (Oxford: OUP, 2012)
  • Rod Kedward and R. Austin (eds), Vichy France and the Resistance: Culture and Ideology (London: Croom Helm, 1985), Introduction
  • Julian Jackson, France: The Dark Years, 1940–44 (Oxford: OUP, 2001), Epilogue, ‘Remembering the Occupation’, 601–30
    Further reading on May ‘68
  • Charles Sowerwine, France since 1870 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2018), 305–18
  • Kristin Ross, May 68 and its afterlives (University of Chicago Press, 2002), Introduction
  • Marc Rohan, Paris ’68: Graffiti, Posters, Newspapers and Poems of the Events of May 1968 (Impact Books, 1988)

Chris Darke, 'Monsieur Memory', Sight and Sound Magazine, vol 7, Issue 4 (April 1997), 24 - 27.
Jill Forbes, 'Politicians and Performers: Un héros très discret', Australian Journal of French Studies, XXXVI, 1999, 125 - 135.
Howard Seal, ‘Screening the past: representing resistance in Un héros très discret', in Lucy Mazdon (ed), France on film: reflections on popular French cinema (London: Wallflower Press, 2001), pp. 107 - 117.
Noël Herpe, 'Jacques Audiard on Un Héros très discret', in French Film Makers on Film Making, edited by John Boorman et al (London: Faber & Faber, 1999), pp. 175 - 182.
Kathryn Lauten, '"Dusting off" Dehousse: Un Héros très discret (Audiard, 1996)', in French Cinema in the 1990s: Continuity and Difference: Essays, edited by Phil Powrie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 58 - 68.
Julia Dobson, 'Jacques Audiard: Contesting Filiations', in Kate Ince (ed.), Five Directors: Auteurism from Assayas to Ozon (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008).
Barry, Peter, Beginning Theory: an introduction to literary and cultural theory (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009)
Bennett, Andrew and Nicholas Royle, Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (Harlow: Prentice Hall, 1995; second edition 1999)
Cuddon, J A, Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (London: Penguin, 1998)

Weeks 11 and 12: LA CHANSON DE ROLAND
Gaunt, Simon, Retelling the Tale: An Introduction to Medieval French Literature (London: Duckworth, 2001)
Gaunt, Simon, ‘Monologic Masculinity: the chanson de geste’, in his Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 22-70
Gilbert, Jane, ‘The Chanson de Roland’, in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval French Literature, ed. by Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 21-34
Keen, Maurice, Chivalry (New Haven : Yale University Press, 1984)
Simpson, James, ‘Feudalism and Kingship’, in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval French Literature, ed. by Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 197-209
Ramey, Lynn Tarte, Christian, Saracen and Genre in Medieval French Literature (New York: Routledge, 2001)

Frank Lestringant, Cannibals : the discovery and representation of the cannibal from Columbus to Jules Verne, translated by Rosemary Morris (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997).
Sylvie Romanowski, Through Strangers' Eyes; Fictional Foreigners in Old Regime France (West lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2005).
Roger Celestin, 'Montaigne and the Cannibals: Towards a Redefinition of Exoticism', in Cultural Anthropology, vol. 5, no. 3 (August 1990), 292 - 313.
Tom Conley. "The Essays and the New World", in The Cambridge Companion to Montaigne, ed. by Ullrich Langer. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Edwin Duval, 'Lessons of the New World: Design and Meaning in Montaigne's Des Cannibales and Des Coches', in Yale French Studies, vol. 64 (1983), 95 - 112.
David Quint, 'A Reconsideration of Montaigne's Des Cannibales', Modern Language Quarterly, vol 5 (1990), 459 - 490.
Steven Rendall: "Dialectical Structure and Tactics in Montaigne's 'Of Cannibals'", Pacific Coast Philology 12 (1977): 56-63).
Catherine Randall, Testimony, Translation, Text: Reading Reliably in Montaigne's "Des cannibales", Modern Language Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Spring, 1995), pp. 34-44.
David Schaefer, 'Of Cannibals and Kings: Montaigne's Egalitarianism', The Review of Politics, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan., 1981), pp. 43-74.
T. Eagleton, ‘Psychoanalysis’ (chapter 5), Literary Theory: An Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983). Available as an electronic extract here.
S. Freud, Art and Literature (London: Penguin, 1988).
E. Wright, Psychoanalytic Criticism. Theory in Practice (London: Methuen, 1984).
Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin, The Postcolonial Studies Reader (1995)
Jean Bessière et Jean-Marc Moura, Littératures postcoloniales et représentations de l’ailleurs: Afrique, Caraïbes, Canada(1999)
Elleke Boehmer, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: migrant metaphors (1995)
Peter Childs and Patrick Williams, An Introduction to Postcolonial Studies (1997)
Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London: Routledge).
Mitchell, Juliet. 2000 [1974] Feminism and Psychoanalysis (London: Penguin).
Moi, Toril. 1985. Sexual/Textual Politics (London: Routledge).
Mottier, Véronique. 2008. Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: OUP).

De Gaulle, Charles, ‘Je vous ai compris,’ Discours du 05/06/1958 (available through INA)
Soustelle, Jacques, Lettre ouverte aux victimes de décolonisation (Paris: Albin Michel, 1973)
Film: La guerre d’Algérie: la Déchirure (2012)
Evans, Martin, Algeria: France’s Undeclared War (Oxford: OUP, 2012)
Horne, Alistair, A Savage war of peace. Algeria, 1954–1962 (London: Penguin, 1977, 2006)
Stora, Benjamin, La Gangrène et l’oubli. La mémoire de la guerre d’Algérie (Paris: La Découverte, 1992)
Fiona Barclay, France's Colonial Legacies (2013)
Edward Berenson, Vincent Duclert and Christophe Prochasson (eds.), The French Republic: History, Values, Debates(2011)

Weeks 18 and 19 : UN CŒUR À RIRE ET À PLEURER
Maria M Kilngele, 'Voice and Resistance in Maryse Condé's Le Cœur à rire et à pleurer: Dynamics of Race, Gender, and Écriture Féminine', (2013). Honors Projects. Paper 7.
Anne Malena, 'Playing with Genre in Condé's autofiction', Journal of West Indian Literature 12, Vol. 1/2 (2004), 154-69
Erica L Johnson, 'Departures and Arrivals: Home in Maryse Condé's Le Cœur à rire et à pleurer’, in Natalie Edwards and Christopher Hogarth, Gender and Displacement: 'Home' in Contemporary Francophone Women's Autobiography(Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publications, 2008).
Madeleine Cottenet-Hage, Lydie Moudileno, eds., Maryse Condé: Une Nomade inconvenante (Ibis Rouge, 2002)

Moran, Matthew, ‘Opposing Exclusion: The Political significance of the Riots in French Suburbs (2005-2007),’ in Modern and Contemporary France, Vol. 19, Issue No. 3, September 2011, pp.297-312
Todd, Emmanuel, Qui est Charlie?: Sociologie d’une crise religieuse (Paris: Seuil, 2015)

Olivier Bourderionnet, ‘A “Picture-Perfect” Banlieue Artist: Abd Al Malik or the Perils of a Conciliatory Rap Discourse’, French Cultural Studies, 22.2 (2011), pp. 151-61
Faysal Riad, ‘Un truc de malade: Abd Al Malik, ou la pétainisation du slam’, Collectif les mots sont importants,

View reading list on Talis Aspire


All modules delivered in SMLC are necessarily international. Students engage with themes and ideas from a culture other than that of the UK and employ their linguistic skills in the analysis of primary materials from a non-Anglophone context. Students will also be encouraged to draw on the experiences of visiting exchange students in the classroom and will frequently engage with theoretical and critical frameworks from across the world.

Subject specific skills

This module will develop students’ linguistic skills through engaging with primary materials in the target language. It will build students’ capacity to engage with aspects of French culture through analysis of this primary material and through seminar discussion aimed at deeper critical thinking. In particular, students’ awareness of the story of modern France will be enhanced through lectures and seminars which engage in scholarship in the field.

Transferable skills

All SMLC culture modules demand critical and analytical engagement with artefacts from target-language cultures. In the course of independent study, class work and assessment students will develop the following skills: written and oral communication, creative and critical thinking, problem solving and analysis, time management and organisation, independent research in both English and their target language(s), intercultural understanding and the ability to mediate between languages and cultures, ICT literacy in both English and the target language(s), personal responsibility and the exercise of initiative.

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 21 sessions of 1 hour (7%)
Seminars 21 sessions of 1 hour (7%)
Private study 258 hours (86%)
Total 300 hours
Private study description

Needs to be regular and consistent: at least 4 hours per week


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group D4
Weighting Study time
Essay 30%

1 x 1500 word essay

Assessed seminar contributions 10%

Students will be assessed on their contributions to seminars along the following lines:

  • evidence of engagement with sources on the seminar worksheet
  • critical engagement with these in the seminars (in the form of a question, targeted observation on material discussed, etc.)
  • awareness of others - not talking over others; allowing all voices to be heard
  • instilling from the off a culture of 'no idea / question is a stupid question' - seminars are for discussion.

Students will be awarded a 5% flat rate mark per term if they show the effort to contribute in a majority of seminars in that term.

Allowances will be made if students are unable to engage fully in all seminars for good reason (they would have to email the seminar tutor beforehand to explain why they couldn't engage, eg for personal wellbeing reasons).

Creative task and presentation 30%

You are required to give a 5-minute oral presentation on an aspect of mythmaking and nationhood in France and/or the francophone world, supported with a document you have put together in one of the following formats:

Video / screen cast / film
Power Point presentation or similar – maximum 3 slides
Close reading/analysis of a selected textual extract

You should refer to no more than three texts studied on the module and may focus on a single text if you prefer. You will need to submit a copy of your supporting document outlining any primary and secondary sources you have used in the preparation of your piece.

Online Examination 30%

You will be required to answer one comparative question, with reference to 2 or 3 primary texts on the module.

~Platforms - AEP

  • Online examination: No Answerbook required
Feedback on assessment

Feedback will be provided in the course of the module in a number of ways. Feedback should be understood to be both formal and informal and is not restricted to feedback on formal written work.
Oral feedback will be provided by the module tutor in the course of seminar discussion. This may include feedback on points raised in small group work or in the course of individual presentations or larger group discussion.
Written feedback will be provided on formal assessment using the standard SMLC Assessed Work feedback form appropriate to the assessment. Feedback is intended to enable continuous improvement throughout the module and written feedback is generally the final stage of this feedback process. Feedback will always demonstrate areas of success and areas for future development, which can be applied to future assessment. Feedback will be both discipline-specific and focussed on key transferrable skills, enabling students to apply this feedback to their future professional lives. Feedback will be fair and reasonable and will be linked to the SMLC marking scheme appropriate to the module.

Past exam papers for FR121


This module is Core for:

  • Year 1 of UFRA-R101 Undergraduate French Studies
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1Q2 Undergraduate French Studies with Linguistics
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1L4 Undergraduate French and Economics (4-year)
  • Year 1 of ULNA-RR14 Undergraduate French and German
  • Year 1 of ULNA-RR15 Undergraduate French and Italian
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1Q3 Undergraduate French and Linguistics
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1WB Undergraduate French and Theatre Studies
  • Year 1 of UFRA-R1WA Undergraduate French with Film Studies
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1A2 Undergraduate French with German
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1A3 Undergraduate French with Italian
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1A8 Undergraduate French with Japanese
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1A7 Undergraduate French with Russian
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R1A4 Undergraduate French with Spanish
  • Year 1 of ULNA-R4RF Undergraduate Hispanic Studies and French
  • Year 1 of UPOA-M163 Undergraduate Politics, International Studies and French

This module is Core optional for:

  • Year 1 of UFRA-R1VA Undergraduate French and History

This module is Optional for:

  • Year 1 of UFRA-QR3A Undergraduate English and French
  • Year 1 of UFRA-R900 Undergraduate Modern Languages

This module is Core option list A for:

  • UFRA-R10P Undergraduate French Studies
    • Year 1 of R10P French Studies (Part-Time)
    • Year 1 of R10P French Studies (Part-Time)

This module is Core option list B for:

  • Year 1 of ULNA-R9Q2 Undergraduate Modern Languages with Linguistics

This module is Core option list C for:

  • Year 1 of ULNA-R9Q1 Undergraduate Modern Languages and Linguistics