Syllabus of a Course of Six Lectures on Modern French Literature
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[ 471 Syllabus of a Course of Six Lectures on Modern French Literature Oxford: Frederick Hall, 1916.1 LECTURE I THE ORIGINS: WHAT IS ROMANTICISM? Contemporary intellectual movements in France must be understood as in large measure a reaction against the “romanticist” attitude of the nineteenth century. During the nineteenth century several conflicting tendencies were manifested, but they may all be traced to a common source. The germs of all these tendencies are found in Rousseau. Short sketch of Rousseau’s life. His public career consisted in a struggle against (1) Authority in matters of religion. (2) Aristocracy and privilege in government His main tendencies were (1) Exaltation of the personal and individual above the typical. (2) Emphasis upon feeling rather than thought. (3) Humanitarianism: belief in the fundamental goodness of human nature. (4) Depreciation of form in art, and glorification of spontaneity. His great faults were (1) Intense egotism. (2) Insincerity. Romanticism stands for excess in any direction. It splits up into two directions : escape from the world of fact, and devotion to brute fact. The two great currents of the nineteenth century–vague emotionality and the apotheosis of science (realism) alike spring from Rousseau. LECTURE II The Reaction Against Romanticism The beginning of the twentieth century has witnessed a return to the ideals of classicism. These may roughly be characterized as form and restraint in 1916: Journalism 472 ] art, discipline and authority in religion, centralization in government (either as socialism or monarchy). The classicist point of view has been defined as essentially a belief in Original Sin–the necessity for austere discipline. It must be remembered that the French mind is highly theoretic– directed by theories–and that no theory ever remains merely a theory of art, or a theory of religion, or a theory of politics. Any theory which commences in one of these spheres inevitably extends to the others. It is  therefore difficult to separate these various threads for purposes of exposition. The present-day movement is partly a return to the ideals of the seventeenth century. A classicist in art and literature will therefore be likely to adhere to a monarchical form of government, and to the Catholic Church. But there are many cross-currents. Our best procedure is to sketch briefly the relation of politics, literature and religion, and then consider the work of a few representatives of these three interests. A. Politics: General feeling of dissatisfaction with the Third Republic, crystallising since the Dreyfus trial. Hence two currents: one toward syndicalism, more radical than nineteenth-century socialism, the other toward monarchy. Both currents express revolt against the same state of affairs, and consequently tend to meet. Nationalism is an independent movement, but tends to associate itself with monarchism. B. Religion: Neo-Catholicism is partly a political movement, associated with monarchism, and partly a reaction against the sceptical scientific view of the nineteenth century. It is very strongly marked in socialistic writers as well. It must not be confused with modernism , which is a purely intellectual movement. C. Literature: Movement away from both realism and purely personal expression of emotion. Growing devotion to form, finding expression in new forms. Disapproval of dilettantism and aestheticism . Expression of the new political and religious attitudes in literature. We shall consider men of letters only as they represent political, religious, or philosophical tendencies. [ 473 Syllabus: Modern French Literature LECTURE III Maurice Barrès and the Romance of Nationalism Barrès illustrates the transition between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. His two phases: (1) Begins as an exponent of egotistic aestheticism in the “nineties”, comparable to J. K. Huysmans and Oscar Wilde. His early novels. Novels of Italy. Bérénice. (2) His entrance into politics as a deputy. In his later novels he returns to the scenes of his childhood–Lorraine. Becomes the champion of the irreconcilables of Alsace-Lorraine.Barrès’s later novels: Les Bastions de l’Est; Colette Baudoche. These novels illustrate two features of nationalism: growing spirit of revenge against Germany, and the cult of the soil–the local, as contrasted with the Parisian spirit–which has been taken up by many modern writers. While the gulf that separated France from Germany always widened, French writers turned more and more to England. Evidences of the Anglophile sentiment in French letters. LECTURE IV Royalism and Socialism Besides the loyal band of traditional royalists there are several intellectuals who have been led to the royalist position largely as a protest against all the conditions in art...


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