Skip to main content

Unit information: The French Renaissance in 2016/17

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name The French Renaissance
Unit code FREN30037
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Tomlinson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of French
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The ease with which the term ‘The Renaissance’ is used conceals the varieties and complexities of cultures during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, both across Europe and within individual nations. In this course, we will examine what the idea of a cultural Renaissance meant for a variety of places and people within France during the long sixteenth-century (c. 1492-1610). Through close study of selections from a range of canonical and lesser-known – yet wholly representative – authors, we will map the cultural geographies and communities that emerged during this period, moving from a study of places, both real and imagined (Rome, Paris, Lyon, and Utopia) to consideration of the role played by social types within Renaissance culture (the Courtier, the Translator, the Cosmographer, the Free-thinker, the Gentleman). The course is at once literary and cultural historical and the corpus covers prose and poetry across a variety of genres (elegy; satire; translation theory; lyric poetry; travel writing; political and historical writing). While our central aim is to interrogate the different influences and constituencies that shaped French Renaissance Culture(s), a constant and concurrent concern will be to critique the historiography that has created such a fixed – and sometimes misrepresentative – image of ‘the Renaissance’ in our modern cultural imagination.

No previous experience of Renaissance units is necessary.

The aims of the unit are to enable students to;

1. gain an understanding of the complexities of the cultures of Renaissance France during the long sixteenth century, by means of engagement with primary texts from a range of genres across the period.

2. develop critical understanding of the historiography of the Renaissance.

3. Developed their skills in reading sophisticated texts in the French language, critical thought, methods of historical, cultural and literary study, assessment of the uses and abuses of concepts in literary and cultural history, close reading, and academic writing.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will have:

1. Knowledge about a significant cultural, historical or linguistic subject related to the language they are studying.

2. Advanced skills in the selection and synthesis of relevant material.

3. Evaluated and analysed relevant material from a significant body of source materials, usually in a foreign language, at an advanced level.

4. Responded to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an advanced level of complexity.

Teaching details

Two seminar hours per week across one teaching block

Assessment Details

50% coursework essay (3000 words) and 50% exam (2-hour, 2-question exam) testing ILO's 1-4

Reading and References

Joachim Du Bellay, Les Antiquitez de Rome, Les Regrets and La Deffense et

Illustration de la Langue Françoyse (selections)

• Thomas More, Utopia

• François Rabelais, Gargantua (selections)

• Etienne Dolet, La manière de bien traduire d’une langue en autre

• Pierre de Ronsard, Odes (selections)

• Jean de Léry, Histoire d’un voyage en la terre de Brésil (selections)

• Etienne de la Boëtie, Discours de la servitude volontaire

• Michel de Montaigne, Journal de voyage (selections)

• Henri Lancelot Voisin de la Popelinière, L’histoire des histoires (selections)