Cover: A New History of French Literature, from Harvard University PressCover: A New History of French Literature in PAPERBACK

A New History of French Literature

Edited by Denis Hollier

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Product Details


$56.50 • £45.95 • €51.00

ISBN 9780674615663

Publication Date: 08/19/1998


1200 pages

6-1/2 x 10 inches

38 halftones, 4 maps, 19 line illustrations


This remarkable collection of brief essays on topics ranging from the Strasbourg Oaths of 842 to a 1983 broadcast of ‘Apostrophes,’ France’s celebrated television literary interview program, is far more than a survey of 12 centuries of writing in France. It is a fascinating, generally very readable and almost always unpredictable ramble through the thick and varied garden of culture tended for these many centuries by the French people. The volume’s editor, Denis Hollier, a professor of French at Yale University, has managed the considerable feat of compiling hundreds of brief essays by 164 mostly American scholars of French literature and to impose on the whole extraordinary unity. The result is a Francophile’s delight and a lucid, often entertaining display of erudition… You can drop your cup at random into this deep well of cultural history and almost always come up with something sweet and stimulating to drink.—Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

An impressive volume…It is not to be thought of as an exhaustive reference book, nor is it designed to be read right through as a single text. Its mode d’emploi is that of the browser. And as such it is indeed—as the blurbs repeat to us—a triumph… All the articles are pegged to an event—as often as not the publication of a book—but they move in quite different directions: to detailed consideration of an author or a work, to the discussion of a problem in cultural history or literary theory, to an evocation of the social context surrounding the event, or to a survey of a literary movement or the development of a genre… Generally, this history impresses by its grasp of the complex cultural field within which ‘literature’ is produced… Plunge in, almost at random, and you will come up with pearls like Leo Bersani on Proust, Dejean on the salons or the editor on May 1968, discourse and power. I shall come back to it often.—Peter France, The Times Literary Supplement

Each and every chapter is chock full of illuminating and intriguing facts, and each one, rather than reserve the stage for one main actor, allows anyone who has something to say to take part in the fun. Stendhal, for instance, has two chapters devoted to his work—on his Romantic manifesto Racine et Shakespeare (1823), and another on his novel La charteuse de Parme (1893)—but his elegant shadow falls on dozens of other pages. Each chapter is announced by a date, a headline event and a theme, and is written by one of 165 academics collected by Hollier from both North America and Europe. And here one must marvel at Hollier’s achievement: academics who can write both intelligently and with humor. The mind boggles.—Alberto Manguel, The Globe and Mail

The fact is that A New History of French Literature has rendered its predecessors obsolete.—Ernest Sturm, The French Review

This grandly imagined and executed history of French literature is without precedent in any language… Here are many of the best contemporary critics and theorists, writing with vivid originality… This volume is a triumph of editorial and critical intelligence.—Richard Poirier, Raritan

An original and outstanding overview of French literature from 842 to the present… There is no history of French literature of this nature on the market today, in French or in English. Highly recommended.—Anthony Caprio, Library Journal

After all the lights from the festivities have been extinguished, after all the babble from the colloquia has stilled, and the celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution on both sides of the Atlantic comes to an end, one book will remain—this one.—Pierre-Yves Pétillon, Critique

Exciting, riotous, irritating, invigorating, often provocative, always interesting.L’Humanité-Dimanche

For the first time, Marie de France, Marguerite de Navarre, Germaine de Staël, George Sand, and Colette have come forward as prize-winners.—Claire Devarrieux, Libération

Awards & Accolades

  • 1993 Prix Littéraire Etats-Unis/France, France-Amériques
  • 1989 James Russell Lowell Prize, Modern Language Association
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