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The French Novel of Disillusionment (Level 6)


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

Module description

This module aims to examine the notion of disillusionment as figured 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  (Musset); post-war trauma and economic Depression (Céline); the alienation of late twentieth-century bourgeois technocratic society (Houellebecq).

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


  • Céline: Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932)
  • Houellebecq: Les particules élémentaires (1998)
  • Musset: Les confessions d’un enfant du siècle (1836)