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FREN 4110: Quand l'art devient la vie: Bienvenue

Course concentrates on 19th century France.

Guide Introduction

Welcome to "Quand l'art devient la vie," a guide that supports literary research involving artists and writers from 19th-century France.  


George Sand looks at Chopin seated at the piano














George Sand et Frédérik Chopin by Eugene Delacroix. Used under Public Domain permissions.

Refine your Topic

The first step when preparing for your composition finale is to outline a topic of interest for your research. Many times we start the research process with a big and general topic. In the following example, a general topic is the starting point that leads to the development of a more refined topic.

  • Women in 19th-century Europe 

         ⇒   This is a general topic. Let’s refine it:

  • Women in 19th century France

       ⇒   Still too broad. Although we regionalized this topic by adding France, the scope is too large (women in 19th century)

  • Women’s role and representation in 19th century France

       ⇒ much smaller. We refined this topic by narrowing it to the role of women

  • What was the societal position of women writers in 19th-century France?

       ⇒ We defined the topic more by adding women writers and their position in 19th-century France

What Topic do I choose?

A syllabus is one helpful tool for drawing topics of interest. Once you have a topic, you can explore optics related to a particular literary work, or in the case of 19th-century literature, the influence of a 19th-century author within the Romantic period or forward, for example. The following example shows that before defining a topic, we gathered information about a particular work, its time period, and its influences in the 19th century and forward.

Balzac, Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu

⇒ You could consider themes or the influence of this 1831 short story known as The Unknown Masterpiece:

  • Published under these titles, too: Maître Frenhofer OR Catherine Lescault, conte fantastique  
  • published in Balzac’s Études Philosophiques in 1837
  • Integrated into the La Comédie Humaine in 1846
  • Inspired film La Belle Noiseuse (1991) by Jacques Rivette
  • Inspired Pablo Picasso's work Guernica
  • Nicholas Poussin motifs related to death and calamity
Baudelaire, sélection de poèmes et essais

⇒ One optic could consider Baudelaire's critical writing style

  • Symbolist poet
  • Influence on modernism (especially modernist art) 
  • critical writing
  • Real life as an inspiration 
  • Parisian realism
Flaubert, Madame Bovary

⇒ One optic could consider societal censorship with literary topics that make us uncomfortable

  • Portrayal of adultery
  • Portrayal of bourgeois mentality
  • Realism in literature
  • Government censorship on literary art (Flaubert was accused of obscenity and acquitted)

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Kathia Ibacache
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