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Unit information: Journeys Through Poetry in 2016/17

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Unit name Journeys Through Poetry
Unit code FREN20046
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Ruth Bush
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will explore how we read and respond to poetry in French. It will begin by asking ‘what is poetry?’ and will respond to this question through analysis of contrasting poetic voices from the sixteenth century to the present day that engage with the idea of ‘journeys’.

Content will principally include

  • poetry concerned with exile, whether chosen or enforced, and which rewrites longstanding traditions of odyssey and contemptus mundi (contempt for the world) (Joachim Du Bellay and Jean-Baptiste Chassignet),
  • poetry of return and protest (Césaire) with reference to Horace and Homer’s Odyssey; a final section will address spoken word ‘Slam’ poetry as a dominant contemporary mode which expresses individual and collective journeys and the journeying of poetry itself as a genre.

An underlying concern in the course will be with ideas of poetic craft, form, and language that emerge from particular social, political, and cultural contexts; a recurrent question will be what it meant to write poetry in French (as opposed to Latin, Creole or Wolof) at different points in the history of Francophone culture.

Reflecting research-rich teaching and learning each year, the poets studied might include Joachim du Bellay, Chassignet, Gérard de Nerval, Aimé Césaire, Grand Corps Malade and Didier Awadi.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will:

  1. Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of a range of poetry written in French.
  2. Be able to use and think critically about key terminology.
  3. Be able to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of primary and secondary source materials as appropriate to level I.
  4. Be able to respond to questions or problems by presenting independent judgements in an appropriate style and at a high level of complexity.
  5. Demonstrate good presentation, research and writing skills.

Teaching details

2 hour weekly seminar

Assessment Details

1 x 2000-word essay (50%) (testing ILO 1 – 5)

1 x 2 hour exam (50%) (testing ILO 1 – 5)

Reading and References

Aimé Césaire. Cahier d’un retour au pays natal. Bilingual edition (trans. Rosello and Pritchard). Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1995.

Joachim Du Bellay, Les Regrets, suivis des Antiquitez de Rome et du Songe (Le Livre de Poche: Classiques, 2002)

Jean Baptiste-Chassignet, Le Mépris de la vie et la consolation de la mort (1594) (available online at in original 16th-century edition)

François Rigolot, Poésie et Renaissance (Poche: 2002)

Timothy Hampton, ‘Representing France at Mid-Century: Du Bellay and the Lyric Invention of National Character’ (Chapter 5), in Literature and Nation in the Sixteenth Century: Inventing Renaissance France (Cornell University Press, 2001), pp. 150-194

Mary Lewis Shaw, The Cambridge Introduction to French Poetry. Cambridge: CUP, 2003.

Justine McConnell, Black Odysseys. The Homeric Odyssey in the African Diaspora since 1939. Oxford: OUP, 2013.