Course Description

Did pamphlets and plays cause the French Revolution? Were newspapers responsible for the revolutions of 1830 and 1848?  Could novels have set Paris up as a stage for revolutions throughout the nineteenth century? Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le noir was presented as an account of 1830, a year in which newspapers started a revolution. Eugène Sue’s Mysteres de Paris and its stage adaptation were accused of bringing about the Revolution of 1848, and Flaubert claimed that a better understanding of l’Éducation sentimentale might have prevented the Franco-Prussian War. We will evaluate such claims in the light of nineteenth-century debates over the power of fiction, paying particular attention to concerns about censorship and the commercialization of literature. Taking as a starting point the historiographical debates surrounding what Roger Chartier has called the “Cultural Origins of the French Revolution”, we will read samples of both popular and more consecrated literature along with recent criticism which explores the social impact of different modes of writing. We will also visit theaters and go to the Archives nationales to see what censors’ reports reveal about the limits of political tolerance for theatrical productions. As we study works of melodrama and realism, polemics and publicity, we will see how Paris itself was imagined as a setting for revolution.


The French Revolution, The Essential Readings, ed. Ronald Schechter

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Mercier, Louis-Sébastien. Panorama of Paris: selections from Le tableau de Paris

Stendhal, The Red and the Black

Sue, The Mysteries of Paris

Hugo, The King Amuses Himself

Flaubert, Sentimental Education


Weeks 1-3 Historiography, Literature and Revolution

1) Darnton, The Forbidden Best-sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France (in Schechter)

Mercier, Louis-Sébastien. trans. Jeremy D. Popkin, Helen Simpson Panorama of Paris: selections from Le tableau de Paris


2) Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution (in Schechter)

Diderot Entretiens sur le Fils naturel

Rousseau  Lettre à M. d’Alembert sur le théâtre

Helen Maria Williams Letters Written in France

3) Some combination of Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the French Revolution

Burke- Reflections on the Revolution in France

Paine- The Rights of Man

Larkin, Edward, Thomas Paine and the Literature of Revolution


Week 4 Law and theater

Maza, Sarah. Private Lives and Public Affairs

Fischer Taylor, Katharine. In the Theater of Criminal Justice

Selections from Foucault


Weeks 5-6 Theater to novel/History and the novel 1

Stendhal, The Red and the Black

Samuels, Maurice. The Spectacular Past

(Stendhal. “La Comédie est impossible en 1836.”)


Week 7-8 French Revolution’s uses in England

Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History

Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


Week 9 The popular novel in France, types, caricatures

Sue, The Mysteries of Paris- selections

Macaire/ Daumier

Terdiman Discourse/Counter-discourse

Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”


Weeks 10

Theater and Censorship, Hugo as prophet/Hugo’s Evolution

Hugo, The King Amuses Himself

(Krakovitch, Hugo Censuré!)

(Felix Pyat, The Rag-Picker of Paris

and/or Vautrin, and/or stage adaptation of Les Mystères de Paris )


Weeks 11-12 History and the Novel 2

Flaubert, Sentimental Education

Benjamin, selections from The Arcades project

selections from Baudelaire


Week  13

Vallès, The Insurrectionist, Selections from Sévérine, Zola





Bennett, Benjamin. All Theater is Revolutionary Theater. London: Cornell UP, 2005.

Brooks, Peter. The Melodramatic Imagination. New York: Columbia UP, 1985.

Chartier, Roger. The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution. Trans. Lydia G. Cochrane. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991.

Darnton, Robert. The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France. New York London: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Ed. Richard Maxwell. London: Penguin Classics, 2003.

Ferguson, Priscilla Parkhurst. Paris as Revolution Writing the Nineteenth-Century City. London: University of California Press, 1994.

Flaubert, Gustave. Sentimental Education. Trans. Robert Baldick. Ed. Geoffrey Wall. Paris: Penguin Classics, 2004.

Friedland, Paul. Political Actors, Representative Bodies and Theatricality in the Age of the French Revolution. Ithaca NY: Cornell UP, 2003.

Guizot, François. “Étude sur Shakspeare.”  Oeuvres complètes de Shakspeare. trad. de M. Guizot. Vol. 1. Paris: Didier, 1862-1864.

Hobsbawm, Eric John. Echoes of the Marseillaise: Two Centuries Look Back on the French Revolution. Mason Welch Gross Lecture Series. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UP, 1990.

Hollier, Denis. A New History of French Literature. London: Harvard UP, 1989.

Hugo, Victor. Three Plays by Victor Hugo, Hernani, The King Amuses Himself, Ruy Blas. New York: Washington Square Press, 1964.

Krakovitch, Odile. Hugo Censuré! Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1985.

Kroen, Sheryl. Politics and Theater: The Crisis of Legitimacy in Restoration France, 1815-1830. Studies on the History of Society and Culture. London: University of California Press, 2000.

Larkin, Edward. Thomas Paine and the Literature of Revolution. New York: Cambridge UP, 2005.

Lyon-Caen, Judith. La Lecture et la vie les usages du roman au temps de Balzac. Paris: Tallandier, 2006.

Maslan, Susan. Revolutionary Acts, Theater, Democracy and the French Revolution. Parallax, Re-visions of Culture and Society. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2005.

Matlock, Jann. Scenes of Seduction: Prostitution, Hysteria, and Reading Difference in Nineteenth-Century France. New York: Columbia UP, 1994.

Maza, Sarah. Private Lives and Public Affairs, The Causes Célèbres of Prerevolutionary France. Studies on the History of Society and Culture. Vol. 18. London: University of California Press, 1993.

Mercier, Louis-Sebastien. Panorama of Paris: Selections from le Tableau de Paris [Abridged]. Trans. Helen Simpson. Ed. Jeremy Popkin. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 1999.

Nesci, Catherine. Le Flâneur et les flâneuses les femmes et la ville à l’époque romantique. Bibliothèque stendhalienne et romantique. Grenoble: ELLUG, Université Stendhal, 2007.

Popkin, Jeremy. Press, Revolution , and Social Identities in France, 1830-1835. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 2002.

Prendergast, Christopher. Paris and the Nineteenth Century. Writing the City. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

Rancière, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator. Trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, 2009.

Reddy, William M. The Invisible Code: Honor and Sentiment in Postrevolutionary France, 1814-1848. London: University of California Press, 1997.

Rosanvallon, Pierre. Le Moment Guizot. Bibliothèque des sciences humaines. Paris: Gallimard, 1985.

Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustin. “De la littérature industrielle.”  Pour la critique. Ed. Annie Prassoloff et José-Louis Diaz. folio essais. Paris: Gallimard, 1992.

Samuels, Maurice. The Spectacular Past, Popular History and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France. Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell UP, 2004.

Schechter, Ronald, ed. The French Revolution, the Essential Readings. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

Schwartz, Vanessa R. Spectacular Realities Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-siècle Paris. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Stendhal. “La Comédie est impossible en 1836.”  Oeuvres complètes. Ed. Victor Del Litto et Ernest Abravanel. Genève: Cercle du bibliophile, 1972. 265-78.

—. The Red and the Black. Trans. Catherine Slater. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009.

Sue, Eugène and Prosper Dinaux. The Mysteries of Paris: A Play in Five Acts. Trans. Frank J. Morlock. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 2009.

Taylor, Katherine Fischer. In the Theater of Criminal Justice: The Palais de Jusitce in Second Empire Paris. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1993.

Terdiman, Richard. Discourse-Counter-Discourse: The Theory and Practice of Symbolic Resistance in Nineteenth-Century France. London: Cornell UP, 1985.

Vallès, Jules. The Insurrectionist. Trans. Sandy Petrey. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 19721.

Williams, Helen Maria. Letters Written in France. Calgary: Broadview Press, 2001.