By David Coward
This terrific quantity offers a whole background 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 photograph fiction and cinema
• provides a definitive background of the literature of France from its origins to the current day.
• contains insurance of Francophone writing in Europe, Canada, the West Indies and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.
• hyperlinks the advance of literature to the mentalities and social stipulations which produced it.
• Takes us past “literature” to check picture fiction, cinema and the bestseller.
• Maps the increase of the highbrow, and in so doing charts a development from literary doctrine to severe theory.
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Extra info for A History of French Literature: From Chanson de geste to Cinema
1206) denounced hypocrisy and materialism just as, a century later, Gervais de Bus’s acronymic Le Roman de Fauvel (written 1301–14) attacked Flatterie, Avarice, U/Vilenie, Variété, Envie and Lâcheté. 1260) by Philippe de Novare described the moral conduct appropriate to each of the ‘four ages of man’. Symbolic representations of human behaviour gravitated towards allegory, which was well established as a central device of Christian and moral writing by the time Guillaume de Digulleville wrote his three Pèlerinages (1330–58).
The chanson de geste began as an effective literature of propaganda but, via legend and romance, became a literature of adventure, fantasy and individualism. It was also, from the start, a warrior literature in which priests, peasants and town-dwellers have walk-on parts and women rarely occupy a central role. Its values were those of militant Christianity and it accorded no place to a new development which began in Languedoc in the early twelfth century: ﬁn’amor. Lyric poetry to Rutebeuf From their ﬁrst recorded beginnings in the mid-twelfth century, Occitan lyric poets used an astonishing variety of ﬁxed forms which were deﬁned by stanza length, rhythm, rhyme scheme and the presence or absence of a refrain.
The earliest surviving example, the Vie de Saint Alexis teaches renunciation of the world and shows a life dedicated to God. If the message is predictable, it is conveyed with unexpected pathos. More intriguing still is the sophistication of its 625 assonanced lines, where rhythm derives not from the feet of Latin verse but from an entirely different principle: the syllable, which would remain the buildingblock of French prosody. Is the life of Saint Alexis, then, merely the ﬁrst surviving vernacular link in a much older Latin tradition which has left few traces?
A History of French Literature: From Chanson de geste to Cinema by David Coward