Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module FREN1061: The Invention of France

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (French)

FREN1061: The Invention of France

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 105 Location Durham


  • Grade A in French at A level or an equivalent qualification


  • Modern European Languages, Combined Honours and all Joint and 'with' programmes: French Language 1 (FREN1011). Others: see Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To explore the ways in which France evolved as a geopolitical entity, with a distinct language, cultural history and political traditions;
  • To provide an introduction to French cultural, philosophical and political studies across medieval, modern and early modern periods, and hence to create pathways into Level 2 modules in these areas;
  • To show how various kinds of cultural media, including literature, film, philosophy and architecture, can be used to explore cultural history and politics.


  • This module, which is taught and assessed in English, offers an introduction to the analysis of the creation of France and ‘French-ness’ through the study of decisive moments in French cultural and colonial history. We will study topics covering the medieval, early modern and modern periods, with texts ranging from philosophical essays to poetry and social critique. While some of the texts taught on the module are literary, the focus will be on cultural history and politics; we will explore the ways in which France evolved as a geopolitical entity, with distinctive—though contested—linguistic and intellectual legacies and political traditions. Central to the investigation will be questions of colonialism, race, class, and gender. By the end of the module, students will have a firm grounding in debates that have shaped the French nation at key moments of its history, and will be able to engage critically with a range of methodological and theoretical approaches appropriate to the study of cultural and intellectual history. This module has been designed to reflect a commitment to diversity in its resources and delivery, and will create opportunities for students to engage in critical analysis of different perspectives relevant to the study area.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Critical knowledge of a range of texts/objects giving a broad overview of France’s cultural history;
  • An understanding of how specific objects of study provide perspectives on key stages in the evolution of French culture;
  • A grounding in objects from multiple fields of study, including literature, architecture, philosophy and media studies
  • An understanding of how France is not a homogeneous cultural entity and territory, but has been shaped by geographical, political and technological factors over the course of history.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Critical analysis and close readings of multiple media, including literature, film, history, thought and architecture;
  • Ability to draw links between different academic disciplines, relating primary cultural material back to its historical and cultural origins.
Key Skills:
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Essay-writing and oral presentation
  • Structuring of arguments
  • Independent learning and research

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures and seminars, plus two summative essays.
  • Since the aim of the module is to analyse broad cultural phenomena, essays offer the most fitting form of assessment.
  • In keeping with the intended learning outcomes, the exam paper should also include a comparative section, reflecting on the overarching themes of the module.
  • Teaching will be in English, with the module capped at ninety students.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 Hour 20
Seminars 10 Fortnightly 1 Hour 10
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay 1 Component Weighting: 15%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 800 words 100% Yes
Component: Essay 2 Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2 1,200 words 100% Yes
Component: Written Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One seminar presentation per term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University