By David Coward

This remarkable quantity offers an entire historical past of the literature of France from its origins to the current day, taking us past conventional definitions of ‘literature' into the area of the best-seller and, past phrases, to image fiction and cinema

• offers a definitive historical past of the literature of France from its origins to the current day.
• accommodates assurance of Francophone writing in Europe, Canada, the West Indies and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.
• hyperlinks the improvement of literature to the mentalities and social stipulations which produced it.
• Takes us past “literature” to review image fiction, cinema and the bestseller.
• Maps the increase of the highbrow, and in so doing charts a development from literary doctrine to serious theory.

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Additional resources for A History of French Literature: From Chanson de geste to Cinema

Sample text

The saga sets Reynard against King Noble, the lion, and their struggle, enacted in field, farm and village, is an extended satire of feudal values. In this sense, Reynard is a rebel baron who encapsulates aristocratic corruption. But the satire is also directed elsewhere – specifically at churchmen whose gluttony, lechery and opportunism 18 THE MIDDLE AGES are regularly lampooned, and more generally at the follies and frailty of human nature. For although Reynard encounters a range of nonaristocratic types (occasionally bourgeois, but mainly peasants, clerics and pilgrims), the animals express a consistently unflattering view of sly, selfish, arrogant humans who are either too stupid or too clever for their own good.

Most surviving manuscripts are less ornate. Some 4 THE MIDDLE AGES are short (perhaps performers’ texts, sometimes with musical notation) while others contain a single work or constitute miscellaneous or themed anthologies. The survival of multiple copies of a work is a useful indicator of its popularity. The identical copy is rare, however, for performers and scribes routinely altered the texts for a variety of reasons – simple errors of transcription, a wish to update or generally ‘improve’ the material – and not until the fourteenth century is there evidence that authors supervised copyists in any systematic way.

1394). Written by a wealthy Parisian bourgeois as a manual for his young wife, it is a detailed record of daily life which reflects the impact of civil war on ordinary people. The Chronique scandaleuse of Jean de Roye also painted social reality – plague, crime, generalized immorality – ‘from below’. 1447–1511) who covered the period 1464–98. Commynes wrote of what he knew in fluid, non-Latinate French and did not limit himself to reporting: he casts a gloomy, ironic eye on war as politics by another means and is a shrewd observer of the men who make history.

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