cod. 14396

Academic year 2018/19
2° year of course - Second semester
Academic discipline
Letteratura francese (L-LIN/03)
Letterature straniere
Type of training activity
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit
in - - -

Learning objectives

Students will acquire during the course the ability to insert the texts studied in the literary, historical and cultural context of the France of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They will be encouraged to reflect on the rhetorical construction of love discourse and on the problems of textual organization of such discourse in the novel context.


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Course unit content

The love discourse in the French novel between the end of the 18th century and the first half of the nineteenth. Detailed study of two selected works:

Les liaisons dangereuses (1782) Choderlos de Laclos

La duchesse de Langeais (1834) Honoré de Balzac

The love discourse is to be understood as a discourse on "love" and as the formulation of a thought related to love, which progressively declines in the fictional narrative. In other words, it is a study of the phenomena and the discursive procedures that support and define the romantic representation of the feeling of love in its multiple meanings (passion, desire, torment, obsession, idealization, etc.). We will analyze the linguistic procedures that allow the argumentation of the characters and / or of the eventual narrator in relation to love as the cardinal object of the narration, and will consequently focus on the amorous dissertation inscribed within the text. We will focus in particular on the rhetorical construction of the love discourse and on the problems of textual organization of this discourse in the novels Les liaisons dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos and La duchesse de Langeais by Balzac:

• How does the love discourse inscribed in both texts participate in the writing and "putting into shape" of the texts themselves?
• How and for what reasons do the characters analyze and argue love while they dream it, experience it or try to make it concrete?
• How does this discourse emancipate itself from narrative in the strict sense and acquires a specific sociological relevance with respect to the epoch of release of the two texts and, at the same time, a philosophical / conceptual significance such as to guarantee its imperious relevance?

The choice of the two novels is dictated by the ambiguous treatment that both reserve for the clichés of love discourse, the specific relationship that romance writing establishes with the linguistic and extra-linguistic conventions of the love discourse, producing and guaranteeing a constant and unresolved oscillation between lyrical adherence, tragic power and ironic distance.
Although the course focuses on the specificity of the two texts mentioned above, the analysis of the amorous discourse will extend to a broader set of novels of different nature that came out between the end of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth, so as to guarantee the students an overview of the romatic production of the period and provide them with a wider range of types and textual outcomes of the love dissertation.

Full programme

18th century

The epistolary novel

• The fashion of épistoliers and secrétaires in society
• Monophonic and polyphony
• Analysis and dissertation
• Tradition and innovation: from Lettres persanes by Montesquieu to Julie ou la nouvelle Héloïse by Rousseau

The affirmation of feeling in a natural context

• Julie ou la nouvelle Héloïse by Rousseau and Paul et Virginie by Bernardin de Saint Pierre

The romance of love analysis - precursors:

• From the psychological perspective of La princesse de Clèves de Mme by Mme de La Fayette to the principles of intellectual analysis of the libertine novel
• The vogue of the memorial novel: Manon Lescaut de l'Abbé prévost - La vie de Marianne and Le Paysan Parvenu by Marivaux
• The theatrical marivaudage La Double Inconstance (1723), Les Fausses Confidences (1733) Le Jeu de l amour et du hasard (1730)

Novel and philosophical story: irony and abstraction

• The affirmation of the critical enlightenment spirit through: Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu
• Results of the conceptual analysis and derives of the cult of reason in Les liaisons dangereuses

Libertine novel:

What is libertinism? How is your worldly drift different?

• From heroic libertinism (XVII ° s.) To the mundane roué
• Aristocratic / worldly tradition of the libertine novel: Crébillon Fils Lettres de la Marquise de M * au Comte de R * (1732) - Les Égarements du cœur et de l'esprit (1735-38)
La nuit et le moment (1755) Le Sopha (1742) - Claude Joseph Dorat - C. Duclos etc
• Popular / erotic-pornographic vein: Gervaise de Latouche, Mirabeau, Fougeret de Monbron, Nerciat
• The divin marquis: the «Sade» case


• Wisely orchestrated intrigue
• The role of the letter: kaleidoscope of points of view, dangers and perversions of correspondence
• Space-time abstraction
• Disincarnation of the characters: des êtres de discours
• Verbal modes of desire
• Theatricalization and staging of desire (Paradoxe sur le comédien Diderot)
• The defeat of a system

THE XIXth century

ROMANTICISM (precursors and progressive affirmation of the intimist novel)

• Masked autobiography and autobiographical tales proper: Chateaubriand - Senancour - Mme de Staël - Benjamin Constant (+ Musset et Stendhal)
• Le mal du siècle or vague des passions: Musset - Chateaubriand etc
• Amorous subjectivism and projection of the ego in the unsatisfied search for elective affinities. Exacerbated lyricism and correspondences with nature.


• Biography
• La Comédie Humaine - the literary cathedral
• The Balzacian "method": Is Balzac realistic?
• The art of portrait and the return of the characters
• The novel of formation and love initiation
• Composition, description and dramatization of a universe parallel to reality: an ante litteram cinematographic writing
• The visionary and the opera-world


• The title
• The three chapters
• The closed space of the boudoir
• Theatrical illusion
• The conflict of love: love fetishism and idolatry - the infinite preambles and frustration of desire - the quête of chivalry and the story of the desert
• The amorphous crystallization
• The momentum towards the absolute and the usury of the vital forces
• Spirituality and transcendence

Stendhal between romance and realism

• Psychological analysis and autobiographical temptation
• The mediation of desire



Reference edition:

LACLOS (DE) Choderlos, Les Liaisons dangereuses. Ed. Gallimard, coll. Folio classiques, prefazione di André Malraux, Parigi, 1970 (prefazione), 1972 (testo e note), note di Joel Papadopoulos, 2001.

Consultable (and recommended) for prefaces or notes:

LACLOS (DE) Choderlos, Les Liaisons dangereuses, Gallimard, « Bibliothèque de la Pléiade », Paris, 2011 (introduzione e note: Catriona Seth)
LACLOS (DE) Choderlos, Les Liaisons dangereuses, Les Livres de Poche, Paris, 1987. (Prefazione : Didier Béatrice Une église baroque à confessionnaux multiples)
LACLOS (DE) Choderlos, Œuvres complètes, Gallimard, “Bibliothèque de la pléiade”, Paris, 1979 (note e apparato critico: Laurent Versini).

Honoré de Balzac

Reference edition:

BALZAC (de), Honoré. Histoire des Treize (Préface: GENGEMBRE, Gérard), Paris, édition Pocket Classique, 1992.

Literary anthology of reference:

BONINI G.F., JAMET M-C, BACHAS P., VICARI F. Écritures ed. Valmartina 2016

Other recommended school anthologies:

Beaubourg, ed. Einaudi scuola – Itinéraires littéraires, ed. Hatier – L’esprit des mots, ed. Loescher

On Choderlos de Laclos e Les Liaisons dangereuses

• An essay chosen from:

DIDIER Béatrice, Choderlos de Laclos, Les liaisons dangereuses: pastiches et ironie, Éditions du temps, Paris, 1998.
DOSI Francesca. La lettera in corpo. Parma, Diabasis, 2017 (il saggio è in italiano, ma l’esame si svolge rigorosamente in lingua francese. Questo testo è pertanto consigliato per chi frequenta il corso)
FONTANA Biancamaria, Du boudoir à la Révolution : Laclos & Les Liaisons dangereuses dans leur siècle, éd.Agone, Marseille, 2013.
VERSINI Laurent « Le roman le plus intelligent ». ‘Les Liaisons dangereuses’ de Laclos, Champion, « Unichamp », Paris, 2000.

• Or five articles of your choice that can be identified in the following collections:

AAVV Europe, n° 885-886, gennaio, febbraio 2003,

AAVV, Laclos et le libertinage, 1782-1982: Actes du colloque du bicentenaire des Liaisons dangereuses, PUF, Paris, 1983 :

MC CALLAM David, « Les modalités du désir dans Les Liaisons dangereuses », Dix-huitième siècle, 1/2006 (n° 38), p. 589-609. URL :

On La Duchesse De Langeais

• Five items of your choice that will be made available on the ELLY portal or provided at the beginning of the course on paper.


DOSI Francesca Trajectoires balzaciennes dans le cinéma de Jacques Rivette ed LettMotif
2013 pp. 379, 581.

Teaching methods

The course consists of lectures, during wich the presentation of histirical and literary contents will be supplemented by commentary and analysis of extracts from texts. The Elly Platform will be used in order to make available critical materials to enable students to carry out personal investigations of the course contents.

Assessment methods and criteria

The knowledge acquired during the course will be assessed through an oral exam in french. The following knowledge and skills will be assessed: knowledge about authors and works covered in the course and their accurate insetion into cultural context; the ability to express content in correct french; an adequate level in the ability to analyze and rework the basic contents in an autonomous way.
A fail determined by the absense, demonstrated by the student during the oral examination, of the ability to understand the basic contents of the course, the lack of autonomous preparation and the inability to solve problems related to information retrieval and the decoding of texts, as well as the formulation of independent judgments. A pass (18-23/30) is determined by the ability, demonstarted by the student, to have acquired the basic content of the course; a sufficient level of autonomous preparation, an acceptable ability to solve problems related to information retrieval and decodin of texts, as well as the formulation of independent judgment. Middle-range marks (24-27/30) are assigned to those student who produce evidence of more than sufficient (24-25/30) or good (26-27/30) levels in the evaluation indicators listed above. Upper-end marks (from 28/30 to 30/30 cum laude) are awarded on the basics of the demonstration of a very good to an excellent level in the evaluation indicators listed above.

Other information

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