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FR1: Introduction to French literature, film and thought

NB: the linguistics element of this paper is suspended for 2022-23.

The paper is designed to offer an introduction to French literary texts, film and linguistics. This range is both chronological (students will meet works from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century) and generic (the paper encompasses poetry, theatre, discursive prose, film and linguistics). Students are expected to attend lectures on Linguistics but can opt in or out of Supervisions in this subject. Students will be expected to develop an independent critical voice as they approach literary works/film, while drawing, where applicable, on the insights of secondary criticism and theoretical approaches. Students will be able to develop skills in close reading and critical commentary, to practise writing in a concise and pertinent manner, and to pursue comparative analyses of the various set texts. The paper presupposes no previous literary experience. Students are expected to read all set texts in French, but the teaching and essay-writing will be conducted in English. Fr1 will allow students both to savour works which are highly stimulating and challenging in themselves, while providing a basis from which they can subsequently make informed choices for Part IB.


It is essential that students purchase the texts in the prescribed editions below. (Other editions vary considerably). ISBN codes have been provided for the avoidance of confusion:

  •  Marie de France, Lais, ed. by Karl Warnke, trans. by Laurence Harf-Lancner (Paris: Livre de Poche, 1990). ISBN: 225305271X
  • Pierre de Ronsard, Les Amours (1552-1584), ed. Marc Bensimon and James L. Martin (Paris: GF Flammarion, 1981). ISBN: 2080703358
    Sonnets pour Hélène, Books I and II (pp. 261-314)
  • Corneille, Horace, ed, Jean-Pierre Chauveau, Collection Folio Théâtre no. 16 (Paris: Gallimard, 1994) ISBN: 2070386600
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, ed. Jean Starobinski, Collection Folio Essais (Paris: Gallimard, 2008 [first published 1969]). ISBN 2070325415
  • Honoré de Balzac, Le Père Goriot, Stéphane Vachon (Paris: Le Livre de Poche Classiques, 1995)  ISBN: 2253085790
  • Agnès Varda (director), Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)
  • Suspended for 2022-23 Plus Linguistics if selected 

Content note

Please note that in Varda's Cléo de 5 à 7 the protagonist is awaiting medical results for a potentially terminal illness, which may be a difficult or sensitive topic for some viewers.

Preparatory reading: 

The most important preparation for the course is reading the set texts. Students may also wish to consult the following accessible overviews before they arrive:

John D. Lyons, French Literature: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

The Cambridge Introduction to French Literature, ed, Brian Nelson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)

Once students are in Cambridge, they will have free online access to two further extremely useful background texts:

The Cambridge History of French Literature, ed. B. Burgwinkle, N. Hammond, E. Wilson (Cambridge University Press, 2011)

A Short History of French Literature, ed. S. Kay, T. Cave and M. Bowie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)


Teaching and learning: 

The paper will be taught in lectures (at the Faculty) and through supervision and/or seminar (in College).  Typically, there will be two lectures per week in Michaelmas and Lent Terms. Students can expect a supervision every fortnight throughout the academic year.

For the Fr.1 Moodle site, please see here.


The paper will be assessed in a three-hour examination.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Jenny Mander