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The Pedagogical Imagination

The Republican Legacy in Twenty-First-Century French Literature and Film

Leon Sachs

Publication Year: 2014

French school debates of recent years, which are simultaneously debates about the French Republic’s identity and values, have generated a spate of internationally successful literature and film on the topic of education. While mainstream media and scholarly essays tend to treat these works as faithful representations of classroom reality, The Pedagogical Imagination takes a different approach.
In this study of French education and republicanism as represented in twenty-first-century French literature and film, Leon Sachs shifts our attention from “what” literature and film say about education to “how” they say it. He argues that the most important literary and filmic treatments of French education in recent years—the works of Agnès Varda, Érik Orsenna, Abdellatif Kechiche, François Bégaudeau—do more than merely depict the present-day school crisis. They explore questions of education through experiments with form.

The Pedagogical Imagination shows how such techniques engage present-day readers and viewers in acts of interpretation that reproduce pedagogical principles of active, experiential learning—principles at the core of late nineteenth-century educational reform that became vehicles for the diffusion of republican ideology.



Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

Many individuals have generously given of their time in reading and commenting on parts of this project at various stages of its development. I owe a debt of thanks to the following for sharing their insights and expertise: Ora Avni, Kim Benston, Stefan Bird- Pollan, Anna Bosch, Gil...

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pp. 1-23

Alphonse Daudet’s short story “La dernière classe” (The Last Class), published in 1872, takes place in a rural schoolroom in Alsace shortly after France’s defeat by Prussia in 1870– 71. Beyond the classroom walls, in the distance, one hears the military exercises of the Prussian troops...

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1. A New Language of Learning

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pp. 24-52

This chapter recovers the way pedagogical doctrines were articulated at a founding moment in republican history and demonstrates the way the language of pedagogy served as an idiom for expressing a system of republican beliefs and values. Though we must look to the past, neither...

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2. Visualizing Literacy

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pp. 53-80

As its title indicates, Agnès Varda’s Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) is a film about the custom of scavenging for discarded, leftover foodstuffs. Video camera in hand, Varda records the lives of those who, still today, like the indigent peasants of centuries past, gather unharvested...

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3. Teaching Suspicion

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pp. 81-111

“Beware of me!” (Méfiez- vous de moi!)1 So reads the first line of Erik Orsenna’s best- selling tale, La grammaire est une chanson douce (Grammar Is a Gentle, Sweet Song).2 Spoken by the narrator, a sassy ten- year- old girl named Jeanne, the opening words are... intended to grab our attention, to put us on alert. They give us reason...

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4. A Classic Dodge

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pp. 112-144

The view expressed above by the republican educator Ferdinand Buisson will undoubtedly strike some present- day readers as banal.1 What could be more obvious than the idea that the object of liberal education is to present the student with divergent points of view and require that after...

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5. Writing on Walls

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pp. 145-175

Of all of the works under consideration here, François Bégaudeau’s Entre les murs may seem the most critical of republican education. But this best- selling, award- winning chronicle of life in a troubled Paris middle school is in fact steeped in the very tradition that it appears to...

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pp. 176-190

In 2002 Flammarion published, under the direction of two of France’s leading historians, Christophe Prochasson and Vincent Duclert, the first Dictionnaire critique de la République (Critical dictionary of the Republic).1 With more than two hundred essay- length articles by eminent...


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pp. 191-208


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pp. 209-218


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pp. 219-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780803255111
E-ISBN-10: 080325511X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803245051

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2014