"David Coward's new History
is heroically comprehensive and shrewdly concise, generously accommodating in its definition of the subject, yet wisely discriminating in its detailed assessments. As the new millennium gets under way, it will surely be not only an essential guide but a lasting source of renewable pleasure for anyone interested in the literature and culture of France.
" Times Literary Supplement
"In its breadth, depth, concision and sophistication of analysis, this book is an exceptional achievement. Neglecting neither Francophone nor gender-specific literature, this single-volume history of a thousand years of French writing and culture is a tour de force." Choice
"Covering in varying depth everything down to modern gay, regional, and francophone writing, this approachable and clearly written book can be read front to back or a given strand can be followed through by moving through the headings classifying genres: theatre, poetry, etc." Modern Language Review
"[...] Coward comes into his element, and provides an invaluable synthesis of where French is now and where it is going. A whole raft of mainstream and marginal writing is presented and evaluated, and it is here that those of us who teach French find ourselves pedagogically the most deeply in Coward's debt." The Times Higher Education Supplement
"The concise discussion of structuralism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, and deconstruction will be of use to many students of literature." World Literature Today
From the Back Cover
In its scope and inclusiveness, this ambitious volume is far more than a history of the literature of France from its origins to the present day, though it is that too. It is a book that fully registers the impact of post-modern thought upon our understanding of what we mean by 'literature' and what historically has been meant by the term. David Coward's book allows us to see the diverse wealth of French literature, which has been extended and enriched by new Francophone writing in Europe, Canada, the West Indies and North and Sub-Saharan Africa. His history is set in the widest cultural context and links the development of literature to the mentalities and social conditions which produced it.
Coward takes us beyond 'literature' into the world of the best-seller and, beyond words, to graphic fiction and cinema. In the course of his account he maps the rise of the intellectual, from the time of Dreyfus to the divisions of the 1930s, from the Existentialists to the Post-Structuralists and beyond, and in so doing charts a progression from literary doctrine to critical theory.
Whatever the subject in hand, from the 'feminism' of the Middle Ages to the Feminism of the present, from the 'modernism' of the fifteenth century to the Modernism we associate with Proust and his contemporaries, Coward proves to be a fascinating and inspiring guide. Topics, themes and genres are clearly signposted so that the reader may follow the evolution of theatre, poetry or fiction as well as wider matters such as censorship and writers' rewards. The text is complemented by a fully comprehensive and reader-friendly index.