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French 4640

Literary Genre II

When we think of the word "literature", what usually comes to mind is high-quality imaginative writing in the form of novels, short stories, plays and poems. But when Jean-Paul Sartre, considered one of the greatest French writers of the twentieth century, wrote "Nous recourrons à tous les genres littéraires pour familiariser les lecteurs avec nos conceptions," he had in mind other types of writing as well, especially non-fiction genres. Indeed the French literary canon -- the selection of works in high school anthologies, for instance -- is broader in scope than the English one. It includes many more non-fiction works of writers like Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal, Madame de Sévigné, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, and in Quebec like Arthur Buies, Paul-Émile Borduas, and Fernand Dumont. And French-language texts not in the traditional literary canon can also be of considerable interest. In France even comic books like Astérix can be studied in high school literature courses!

This course provides an opportunity for advanced-level study of a genre other than poetry, drama, and classical narrative fiction. The genre chosen may be non-fiction, such as the essay, letters, diaries, or autobiography. It may be fiction: fantasy, science fiction, spy and detective novels, etc.

Course Content

The selection of readings will depend on the instructor and on the genre chosen. Examples of the genre from different periods will be studied, with a view to understanding its evolution and characteristics. Some instructors may give specific consideration to the concepts of canon and genre.


Two of 3500, 3501, 3502, 3503, 3504. or one of these with a grade ot 80% or higher.


Most instructors choose paperback editions of the several works to be studied in the course.


Varies according to the instructor, but typically a relatively high proportion of the mark (60% to 80%) is based on term work, including some combination of essays, commentaries, participation in class discussion, and class presentations, with the remainder of the mark based on a written final examination.


French 4640 is normally offered in either the Fall or Winter semester approximately every second academic year.

Along with or after 4640

Students majoring in French require two 4000-level courses. In some cases another 4000-level literature course such as 4610 or 4620 , 4630 , 4650 , 4660 will be offered. Normally a 4000-level language course will also be offered: 4100 , 4101 , or one of the series 4120-4129 .

Current information

For information on the current offering, see