Fiction & History in 19C Lit

Fiction and History in the 19th century (1830-1914)

The purpose of this course is to study the relationship between Fiction and History in some of the most important French novels of the 19th century. First we will examine the origins of the so-called « roman historique » around the 1830s (the influence of Walter Scott, the rise of historical drama, the development of modern historiography). We will then try to define, according to Balzac’s Avant-Propos of the Comédie humaine, what the novelist called « histoire des mœurs », taking as an example one of Balzac’s masterpieces, Illusions perdues. We will then study the main features of the historical novel —a successful genre during the whole romantic period— with for example Dumas’s Les Trois Mousquetaires. Studying Victor Hugo’s Quatre-Vingt-Treize, we will see how the historical novel deepens and assumes moral and metaphysical meanings, as it pictures the place and function of evil in history. Finally, by examining short extracts from historical texts of fiction, we will study the different ways in which history can be integrated into the novel: local color, historic scenes, representation of historic characters and facts. The relationships between historical and realistic fiction will be underlined, then we will conclude with a short survey of historical fiction throughout the 20th century.

Required text: 1) Victor Hugo, Quatrevingt-treize; ISBN 978 2070418237, Gallimard Folio classique nº 3513; 2) Balzac, Illusions perdues, ISBN 978-2-07-030989-4, Gallimard Folio classique, nº 5545
Language School
Requirements Fulfilled:


Summer 2013, LS 6 Week Session

FREN6753A-L13 Lecture (Noiray)