French Literature: A Cultural History
July 2010, Polity
The book highlights the continuities and the unique fault-lines in the society that, over a millennium, has produced ‘French culture’. It looks at France’s early and continuing struggle for a national identity through both its language and its literature, and it shows that this struggle co-exists with openness to other cultures and a bawdy or subtle rebelliousness against the Church and other forms of authority. En route it takes in cuisine, gardens and the French tradition in mathematics. The survey provides an accessible approach to key issues in the history of French culture as well as a wide context for specialists.
Chapter 1: From the beginnings to the Renaissance.
Chapter 2: From Sun King to Enlightenment (1630-1789).
Chapter 3: Between revolutions (1789-1830).
Chapter 4: Balzac and the birth of cultural studies (1830-1870).
Chapter 5: Republic, reaction and the murder of taste (1870-1913).
Chapter 6: Despair and optimism (1913-1944).
Chapter 7: Commitment and playfulness (1944-1968).
Chapter 8: After May 1968.
Chapter 9: 'Foreignness' early and modern.
Chapter 10: Francophone literature: recent developments.
"This is a book to read for pleasure and self-enlightenment, to use as a model of a cultural approach to literary studies, and - most certainly - to recommend to students."
Modern Language Review
"Alison Finch's superbly written book brings the cultural dimension of French literature fully into focus. While revealing how the agenda of literary study has changed, she demonstrates that we can engage with the great canonical texts of French literature in new and exciting ways. The book is to be commended for its clarity, its shrewd analyses, and its sheer readability."
Tim Unwin, Bristol University
"Written with great panache, this book locates French literature in the wider culture of the Western world. Finch shows how, from Marie de France to MC Solar, literature in France has always intertwined with politics, history, geography, money, sex, language, gender, class and race. Women writers and the new Francophone literatures receive welcome recognition. A remarkable achievement."
Michael Sheringham, Oxford University
"The depth and range of this book are astonishing, as it describes the cultural conditions out of which French literature has emerged as a vital component of Western civilisation from the Middle Ages to the present day. Informative and immensely readable, it makes a compelling and humane case for the continued study of literature in a changing world."
Colin Davis, Royal Holloway, University of London
"French Literature – A Cultural History by Alison Finch, offers a chronologically brilliant introduction to a subject matter simply steeped in risk and heritage, as well as cultural dimension. And as a result of its linearity, it enables the reader to dip in and out whilst simultaneously being informed and inspired."
David Marx Books Reviews