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The University of Southampton

FREN1001 Modern French Culture

Module Overview

A module which introduces students to examples of French cultural production over the last 60 years and develops students' understanding of the meaning of genre in cultural production.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to examples of French cultural production over the last 60 years; • develop your understanding of the meaning of genre in cultural production; • build on the critical approaches developed in the first-year field course ‘Reading Culture’, by providing models of how such critical approaches may be applied to a range of French materials; • foster your ability to produce your own critically-informed interpretations of cultural texts.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • a range of French texts in different genres;
  • definitions and key features of the three genres studied;
  • techniques for analysing a variety of cultural forms;
  • the relationship between social and historical context and works of art;
  • the structures and techniques that ‘work’ on the reader or spectator in each literary, dramatic or filmic text studied in the module.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • think critically and analytically about the interpretation of texts and films;
  • construct your own critical analysis and formulate a structured argument in tutorial discussions and in essays;
  • understand and articulate some of the connections between historical moment and artistic production.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • present your ideas in class and in essay work.
  • use basic bibliographical and referencing skills;
  • lead and participate in discussions;
  • assess the value of arguments
  • reflect critically on your own responses to cultural products.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • read confidently in French;
  • identify and articulate key debates about the texts and films you have studied;


The three genres are discussed in turn (theatre, novel, and finally film) by examining two examples of each: Sartre’s Huis clos and Beckett’s En attendant Godot; Camara Laye’s L’Enfant noir and Simone de Beauvoir’s Les Belles Images, Godard’s A bout de souffle and Klapisch’s Chacun cherche son chat. Each pair has been chosen both to bring out formal characteristics and features of narrative and dramatic structure, and also parallel themes. For example, questions relating to personal responsibility, intersubjectivity and the quest for meaning figure strongly in the plays; family and social structures and values in very different cultures are prominent themes in the two novels (these also raise questions about the relationship between the developed world and third-world nations); the films focus on the negotiation of identity and interpersonal relations in a specific social and cultural context.

Special Features

Following an introduction to the three genres studied, the lectures will focus on specific texts. In the seminars, you will be expected to develop your own ideas about generic conventions and the way these inform (and are experimented with) in the novels, plays and films studied. The seminar presentations will require you to research a small topic, to present your findings to your peers, and to clarify and develop your ideas in discussion. The essays seek to test your grasp of the body of material to which you have been introduced, your capacity for independent study and research, and your academic writing skills.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • one weekly lecture (for each genre, a general lecture outlining its characteristics followed by lectures on the individual texts/films); • a weekly tutorial in which students will give brief presentations (individual or joint) to open discussion on specific passages, features and problems of the texts; • screenings of the films and the plays. Learning activities include • close reading and analysis of specific texts and films; • class discussions relating to the interpretation of the texts and the analysis of the literary, dramatic or filmic strategies they deploy; • independent study; • the preparation of seminar presentations and assessed essays.

Wider reading or practice40
Completion of assessment task40
Preparation for scheduled sessions2
Follow-up work4
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Beckett, S. (1952). En attendant Godot. 

Peter Brook (1972). The Empty Space. 

Susan Hayward (1993). French National Cinema. 

Beauvoir, Simone de (1966). Les belles images. 

Sartre, J.-P. (1947). Huis clos. 

Laye, Camara (1953). L’Enfant noir. 

Klapisch, Cédric (1996) Chacun cherche son chat. Film

David Lodge (1992). The Art of Fiction. 

Godard, Jean-Luc (1960) A bout de souffle. Film


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  seminar presentations;  discussion of essay drafts.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Essay  (1500 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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