The French literature includes/understands the whole of the works written by authors of French nationality or French language. Its history begins in Former French with the Moyen-âge and remains today.
History of the French literature
- the courteous Literature
- the Courtly romance
- the middle-class Literature
- poetry with the Middle Ages
One of the Serments of Strasbourg (842) is the first known complete text written in Romance, l'" ancêtre" of French. The first text preserved in this language which one regards today as " littéraire" is the Séquence or Cantilène of holy Eulalie , probably written between 881 and 882; it is a simple adaptation in 29 worms of a Latin poem to religious and teaching vocation.
The first large texts of the French literature date them from the medium of the Middle Ages (11th century), time of development of the Agriculture and demographic expansion after periods of invasions, of anarchy and epidemics.
The chansons de geste are long poems comprising of the thousands of worms which are intended to be sung as a public, gesture meaning warlike exploits here. They report, in a epic form mixing historical legends and facts, of the last warlike exploits, and emphasize the chivalrous ideal. Oldest and most known is the Chanson of Roland who was written at the 11th century; she tells, by idealizing them, the exploits of the army of Charlemagne.
The courteous Literature, appeared at the 12th century, has as a main theme the worship of the single, perfect and often unhappy love. It finds its origin in Antiquity, just by the Eastern influences due to the return of the Crusaders, and takes as a starting point Celtic legends. Thus, the legend of Tristan and Iseult tell the history of an absolute and impossible love which ends in the tragic death of the lovers; these poems were sung at the court of the princes by the trouveres and the troubadours. Christian of Troyes (1135? - 1190?) is undoubtedly the first novelist of the French literature; its novels like Yvain or the Knight with the lion , Lancelot or the Knight of the cart and Perceval or the Tale of Graal are typical of this literary kind. The long poem the Romance of the Rose , best-seller dating from the beginning of the 13th century is one of the last writings relating to the topic of the courtly love, and that only in its short beginning written by Guillaume de Lorris. The remainder of the poem, continued by Jean de Meung contains contrary to the passages (of which that of the old woman ) of an astonishing misogyny, fray in addition with articulated arguments of critical social .
About the same time, the Romance of Renart is a whole of poems which report the adventures of gifted animals of reason. The fox, the bear, the wolf, the cock, the cat, etc have each one a human character trait: dishonest person, naive, crafty one… The anonymous authors scoff in these poems the feudal values and courteous morals.
The Parisian poet of the 13th century Rutebeuf seriously has the echo of the human weakness, uncertainty and poverty contrary to the courteous values.
The first historical chronicles written in French are accounts of the crusades dating from the 12th century. Some of these accounts, like those of Joinville recalling the life of Louis saint, have also a moral goal and somewhat idealize the reported facts. Then the Guerre One hundred Year old (1337 - 1453) is told by Jean Froissart (1337 - 1410?) in two books called Chronic . Eustace Deschamps, the poet, testifies to the company and mentalities during the Guerre One hundred Year old.
After the One hundred Year old war, the poet François Villon (1431 - 1463?) translated the disorder and the violence of this time. Noble orphan of origin and good student, it is then condemned for flight and murder. Its at the same time erudite and popular work expresses a revolt against the injustices of its time.
The religious theater develops throughout the Middle Ages, it puts in scene the Mysteries, i.e. religious holidays like Christmas, Easter and the Ascension; contrary to the preceding literary kinds rather aristocratic, he addresses himself to the greatest number. Beside this religious theater, a comic theater called joke appears at the 15th century when it is fought hard by the religious authorities.
The principles of humanism will mark the literature deeply: return to the old texts (Greek, Latin and Hebrew), desire of knowledge, indisputable epicureanism, renewal of the forms and the topics while being distinguished from the medieval literature.
Poetry counts as important author Marot, Jean de Sponde, Agrippa of Aubigné, and poets of the Pléiade among which appear Ronsard and Of Bellay.
The most outstanding novels are those of Rabelais and Marguerite de Navarre.
The Essais of Montaigne are an important work located between philosophy and the autobiography. The Essais are one of the first French autobiographies besides and thus open the door with Rousseau and so much of others. The project even of the Tests , namely to be discovered, but also to discover the Man, can be rapporché among that of the Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau who seeks to paint the man, with her qualities, but also its defects.
Pierre Corneille). But as of the end of the century in literature a current of thought takes shape which announces already the Lights (with the Heather for example).
The 18th century is called century of the Lumières. By this Métaphore the century seeks to devote, through the spirit of the Renaissance and the Cartésianisme of the previous century, the triumph of the Raison on the Ténèbres (the Obscurantisme and the Préjugé S). The Lumières are a European Phénomène, but the French “philosophers” crystallize best the ideas of the century and give relief to new values which, beyond the French revolution, will mark the Europe durably and the world. The philosophers of the Lights are Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and Montesquieu.
This movement of artistic creation and its expansion can partially find their cause in certain points of view. Some stress the dash of Liberté which the French revolution caused, dash of freedom followed by a disorder, of a confusion pulled by instability, the political uncertainty which emanates from first half of the century. Accordingly, one sees the writer with his ideals, expressing his opposition to the political and social order. For others, the place of the French revolution and political disturbances which will follow do not explain or not entirely the efflorescence of the Romantisme French, fascinating for proof the former birth of the English and German romanticisms in countries which were not shaken by least the Révolution. They insist rather on the influence which exerted the study and the reading of the literatures English and German by the men of letters French.
The French Literature at the XXe centuryThe French literature of the 20th century was deeply marked by the crises historical, political, morals and artistic. The literary current which characterized this century is the Surréalisme, which is especially a revival of poetry (André Breton, Robert Desnos…), but also the Existentialisme (Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre), which also represents a new philosophy ( the existentialism is a humanism of Jean-Paul Sartre). The source first in the artists of this century is in connection with the political conflicts of the time. The war is thus present as well in poetry as in the novels.
In France, the New Novel, theorized by Alain Robbe-Grillet in the New Novel , relates to initially only few writers but then inspired a whole generation of writers gathered today around the Editions of Midnight, of which Jean Echenoz, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Tanguy Viel, Christian Oster, Laurent Mauvignier or Christian Gailly. After that, more no movement in a strict sense succeeds in emerging. The Oulipo, Sewing room of potential literature, to which belonged Queneau or Perec (and today of the authors like Roubaud, Fournel, Jouet and Tellier) is indeed not conceived like a movement, but like an work group. The same applies to the Nouvelle Fiction gathering novelists such as Hubert Haddad, Frédérick Tristan or Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud.
The literature written in French language is found in many countries on several continents. See:
- : Category: French-speaking literature
- List of writers of French language by chronological order
- Writers of French language, alphabetically
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