FRENCH 240 - French and Francophone Topics in Translation
Section: 001 Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
Term: WN 2018
Subject: French (FRENCH)
Department: LSA Romance Languages & Literatures
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of department.
Advisory Prerequisites:
A knowledge of French is not required. Enrollment restricted to first- and second-year students.
Other Course Info:
Taught in English.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is one of the most famous books of the modern age, the best known work of one of France’s most renowned writers. It was a best-seller in the 19th century, translated into many languages and read avidly by American Civil War soldiers, college students, and almost everyone else. It inspired one of the most successful musicals of the late 20th century, thanks to which its characters — Jean Valjean, Cosette, Inspector Javert—are known to millions. The book itself, however, is almost never read in college literature courses, not even by French majors, in part because of its length, in part because its extravagant idealism and melodrama seem to put it outside the main tendencies of modern literature. Yet the greatest thing about Les Misérables is probably not the characters or the plot but the astounding curiosity, energy, imagination, and commitment that informs Hugo’s writing on every page.

Students in this course will read Les Misérables in a recent, unabridged, and highly readable English translation by Julie Rose. For contrast, we’ll also read a much shorter but no less great novel by Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education (1869), which looks ironically and without illusion at much of the same social and historical material as Hugo’s masterpiece. The focus of lectures and discussions will be to explore these novels window onto the 19th century and indeed onto major forces and issues of the modern world: revolution, social inequality, crime and punishment, faith and superstition, self-sacrifice and private happiness, progress and fate, hope and disillusion, the nature of fiction. We will use clips from the many film versions and songs from the musical to analyze how key scenes of Les Misérables have been interpreted.

Course Requirements:

Mid-term examination, final examination, term paper.

Intended Audience:

This course is taught in English, and no language placement exam is necessary.

FRENCH 240 - French and Francophone Topics in Translation
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0812974263
Les miserables, Author: Victor Hugo ; a new translation by Julie Rose ; introduction by Adam Gopnik ; notes by James Madden., Publisher: Modern Library Modern Lib 2009
ISBN: 0140447970
Sentimental education, Author: Gustave Flaubert ; translated by Robert Baldick., Publisher: Penguin Books Revised wi 2004
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