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French Poetry, 1844-1898 - ENG00129I

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Stephen Minta
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

This module looks at a small group of nineteenth-century French poets: Gérard de Nerval, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, and Stéphane Mallarmé. The period (which goes from the publication date of the first of Nerval’s sonnets from Les Chimères to the death of Mallarmé) is perhaps the greatest period in all of French poetry. Its legacy still remains to be fully assessed, but it extended into the poetics of high modernism, into surrealism, the decadent movement, and, especially through Baudelaire, into the visual arts.

Some of the poetry of this period is difficult—though, in many ways, it is no more difficult in the original language than in translation. Many of the poems will be studied in translation. The module will take very limited amounts of poetry (with some contextual prose, such as Joris-Karl Huysmans A rebours/Against Nature), and seek to build out, from this basis of close reading, into thinking about some of the most challenging debates of the period: about the impact of modernity on consciousness, the function of poetry and of language itself in the modern world, issues to do with gender and sexuality--notably through the poetry of Rimbaud and Verlaine--ideas about ‘pure poetry’ and the relationship between poetry and music. 

Related modules

You will need to have a good GCSE in French in order to take this module.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22 to Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

This module aims to introduce you to a range of some of the most important French poetry, poetry which is significant in itself and which has exerted huge influence on later artistic traditions, both within Europe and beyond.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with a range of nineteenth-century French poets.
  2. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with the language of French poetry in a phase that is often called ‘symbolist’.
  3. Examine key debates and critical approaches, including the impact of modernity, the role of the poet in the modern world, perceptions about poetic language, the relationships between the arts, gender issues, and the uses of the term ‘symbolist poetry’.
  4. Develop arguments and ideas which demonstrate a proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of some of the key issues at stake in the act of translation and in the study of literature in translation.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay: 2500 Words
N/A 70
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
French Poetry, 1844-1898 exam
8 hours 30

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in week 1 of the summer term. Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work.

This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 3 seminar). Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay: 2500 Words
N/A 70
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
French Poetry, 1844-1898 exam
8 hours 30

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours  
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

We will be using Standard texts (mainly in the Oxford World’s Classics series) for the poets detailed above:

  • Gérard de Nerval,
  • Charles Baudelaire,
  • Arthur Rimbaud,
  • Paul Verlaine,
  • Stéphane Mallarmé.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.