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The French Novel of Disillusionment (Level 6)


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Damian Catani
  • Assessment: a 2500-word essay (60%) and in-class test commentary (40%)

Module description

In this module we examine the notion of disillusionment as described by three representative novelists from three different centuries in the post-Enlightenment era: Musset, Céline and Houellebecq.

Analysis of the novels will be clustered around different articulations of disillusionment (‘mal de siecle’, ‘ennui’, ‘nihilism’) and will also be contextualised, where appropriate, by historical causes of this disillusionment:

  • post-Napoleonic defeatism (Musse, Les confessions d’un enfant du siècle, 1836)
  • post-war trauma and economic depression (Céline, Voyage au bout de la nuit, 1932)
  • the alienation of late twentieth-century bourgeois technocratic society (Houellebecq, Les particules élémentaires, 1998).

The course will be taught primarily in French and the primary texts will be studied in French.