Studies in 19th Century French Literature: Burning Books in the 19th Century

FRIT-F640 — Spring 2019

Nicolas Valazza
AC C101
Days and Times
4:00P-6:00P T
Course Description

The auto-da-fé, or “public act of burning books considered offensive, subversive, or heretical,” is commonly considered a repressive, if not barbaric act aimed at destroying writings and images that allegedly threaten political and/or religious powers. However, the efficacy of this practice, which has spanned all history and cultures to the present day, has been rightly cast in doubt, since in most cases the public spectacle of burning books fueled their publicity: Nothing like burning a book to make it famous! Given its spectacular and often fantastical nature, the theme of the auto-da-fé has deeply fascinated authors and readers, in particular in nineteenth-century France, when fewer books were factually burnt than in previous centuries, but when the auto-da-fé became a fictional theme in many novels, poetry collections, and theater plays. In this seminar we will read and analyze several literary works by authors from the late eighteenth century to the twentieth century, including Voltaire (Candide), Victor Hugo (Quatrevingt-treize), Émile Zola (Le Docteur Pascal), Arthur Rimbaud (Une saison en enfer), Stéphane Mallarmé (Notes en vue du Livre), and Amélie Nothomb (Les Combustibles), with the purpose of answering an apparently simple question: What does it mean to burn books within books? Readings and class discussion will be in French and in English.

Book List:

  • Lucien Polastron, Livres en feu, Folio Gallimard, 2009, ISBN: 2070399214
  • Voltaire, Micromégas, Zadig, Candide, GF Flammarion, 2014, ISBN: 9782081351271
  • Victor Hugo, Quatrevingt-treize, GF Flammarion, 2014, ISBN : 2081342472
  • Arthur Rimbaud, Poésies, Une saison en enfer, Illuminations, Folio Gallimard, 1999, ISBN : 9782070409006
  • Stéphane Mallarmé, Poésies et autres textes, LGF Livre de Poche, 2005, ISBN : 2253081027
  • Émile Zola, Le Docteur Pascal, Folio Gallimard, 1993, ISBN : 2070386627
  • Amélie Nothomb, Les Combustibles, LGF Livre de Poche, 2002, ISBN : 2253139467

Interested in this course?

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