Since before Charlemagne, there has been a love story between Paris and its citizens. Paris captured artists’ imagination as early as the Middle Ages with the “chanson de gestes,” but in the nineteenth century, it became a myth in French literature.

We will explore this myth and its evolution since the 1830s, starting with the “rooting” of the myth in Balzac’s works. We will also study how the novel developed as a city-defined genre. Authors that will be analyzed include: Balzac, Hugo, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Zola, Verne, Apollinaire, Breton and Modiano. We will study the evolution of the myth in literature and compare the literary constructions of Paris to the physical reality described by urban historians.

Though we will concentrate on Paris in its literary representations, comparisons will also involve other forms of art such as painting, photography and cinema, in order to illustrate the omnipresence of Paris in French imagination. A range of mediums will be discussed, but literature will be used as the grounding element for discussion in each case. Accordingly, we will examine works from: Delacroix, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissaro, Degas, Caillebotte, Delaunay, Marville, Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Tati, Klapish and Jeunet. Students will be encouraged to draw comparisons between different forms of representations, across time periods, and to compare and contrast differences between mediums, as well as time periods.


•    Attendance is mandatory.  It is essential that students attend all classes and participate actively.  Unexcused absences will influence the final grade.
•    Reading assignments are critical. Students are expected to read the material as it is assigned and come to class prepared.


Visits to museums and other relevant sites (depending on current exhibits) are an integral part of this course, and failure to attend them will be counted as an unexcused absence.


The final grade for this course will consist of the following components:

Participation in seminar discussions and class preparation        20 %
Oral presentation                            30 %
Final Exam                                50%


Barricelli, Jean-Pierre.  Fireplaces of Civilization.  Riverside:  Xenos Book, 1993.
Benjamin, Walter.  Paris, Capitale du XIXe Siècle:  Le Livre des Passages.  Trans. Jean
Lacoste.  Ed.  Rolf Tiedemann.  Paris:  Les Editions du Cerf, 1993.
Burton, R. “The Unseen Seer, or Proteus in the City: Aspects of a Nineteenth-Century Parisian
Myth”, French Studies XLII, 1 (1988) 50-68.
Collier, Peter.  “Nineteenth Century Paris:  Vision and Nightmare.”  Unreal City:  Urban     Experience in Modern European Literature and Art.  Ed.  Edward Timms and David
Kelley.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 1985.
---., & Lethbridge Robert, Artistic Relations. Literature and the Visual Arts in nineteenth
century France. Yale University Press: 1994.
Ferguson, Priscilla Parkhurst. Literary France: The Making of a Culture. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1987.
---. Paris as Revolution: Writing the Nineteenth Century City. Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1994.
Lehan, Richard. The city in Literature :An Intellectual and Cultural History. Berkeley: The
University of California Press, 1999.
McMahon, Joseph, ed. Paris in Literature. New Haven: Yale French Studies, 1964.
Prendergast, Christopher. Paris and the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell
Publishers, 1992.
Raser, G. The Heart of Balzac’s Paris. Choisy-le-roi: Imprimerie de France, 1970.
Schor, Naomi.  “Zola:  from Window to window.”  Yale French Studies 42 (1969):  38-51.

Brenneman, David A., ed. Paris in the Age of Impressionism: Masterworks From the Musée
d’Orsay. New York; Harry N. Abrams, 2002.
Clark, T.J., The Painting of Modern Life. Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers. New York:
Knopf, 1985.
Gaussen, Frédéric. Paris des peintres. Paris : Adam Biro, 2002.
Reff, Theodore, ed. Manet and Modern Paris: One Hundred Paintings, Drawings, prints and
Photographs by Manet and His Contemporaries. Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1982.
Rosenthal, Mark. Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay’s Series. New York: Guggenheim Museum,
Sagner-Düchting, Karin. Renoir: Paris and the Belle Epoque. New York: Prestel, 1996.
Wiser, William. The Crazy Years: Paris in the Twenties. London: Thames & Hudson, 1983.

Atget, Eugène. Eugène Atget’s Paris. Essay by Andreas Krase, edited by Hans Christian Adam.
New York: Taschen, 2001.
---. Atget Paris. Presented by Beaumont-Maillet. Paris: Hazan, 1992.
---. Paris du temps perdu. Text by Marcel Proust. Lausanne: Edita, 1963.
Cartier Bresson, Henri. Paris à vue d’oeil. Paris : Seuil, 1997
---. The Early Work. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Londres: Thames & Hudson, 1987.
---. Henri Cartier-Bresson: à propos de Paris. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.
Gautrand, Jean-Claude. Paris mon amour. Paris : Marval, 1996.
Mellot, Philippe. Le nouveau Paris sens dessus dessous Marville-photographies 1864-1877.
Paris: Trinckvel, 1995.
Paviot, Françoise. Paris des photographes. Paris: Duchêne, 2002.

Binh, N.T. Paris au cinéma, la vie rêvée de la capitale de Méliès à Amélie Poulain. Paris :
Parigramme, 2003.
Jeanne, René & Charles Ford. Paris vu par le cinéma. Paris: Hachette, 1969.


Week 1

The Birth of a Myth
•    Course syllabus and requirements
•    Paris in the nineteenth century
The Balzacian Archetype : Paris of the Restauration
•    Honoré de Balzac’s Old Goriot (1835) : analysis of the opening scene
•    Parisian social segregation
•    Lavielle’s representation: Cinq étages du monde parisien, coupe d’un immmeuble (1850)

Week 2
What is the myth made of ?
•    Old Goriot
•    Parisian microcosms : the quartier, the boarding house
•    A dialectic of combat

Week 3
Paris as Revolution
•    Passages from Hugo’s Les misérables (1862) and Flaubert’s l’Education sentimentale : a comparison of two perspectives
•    Delacroix : La liberté menant le peuple (1830)

Week 4
Baudelaire’s Paris : The Poet in the City, from a Pastoral to an Urban Mode
•    Introduction to The Flowers of Evil (1861)
•    Analysis of a poem  The Swan

Week 5
Haussmann’s Paris : A Mobile Entity
•    Marville’s and Atget’s Paris
•    Zola’s La curée

Week 6
Haussmann’s Paris : A Mobile Entity
•    What is Naturalism ?
•    Zola’s La curée
•    Zola and the impressionnists see the virtual exhibition “Zola: historien et poète de la modernité”(http://expositions.bnf/Zola/Zola/expo/index.htm)
•    Painters and writers at the café Guerbois

Week 7
Impressionnist Paris
•    Paintings by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Caillebotte, Degas and Pissaro

Week 8
Paris of “l’Esprit Nouveau”

•    Apollinaire’s “Zone” and “Mirabeau Bridge” from Alcools (1913)
•    Paintings by Delaunay

Week 9

Is the Myth Still Alive Today ?
Paris in cinema since Méliès
Paris in Contemporary Literature

Week 10

Final Exam