Document Type

Student Research Paper


Spring 2019

Academic Department

Modern Languages

Faculty Advisor(s)

Dr. Vanessa Borilot


Attuned to social changes, artists both celebrate and contest progress. From the Age of Reason through the Age of Disillusionment and even today, French poetry has shaded development in hues of freedom. Liberty in the 18th century connoted democratic ideals, then following the Revolution, writers aimed to free creativity. Seeking to retrace modern French literature and to frame the movements around their historical and philosophical contexts, this paper asks how preceding poets influenced upcoming ones. This essay surveys the literary evolution in France by concentrating on twelve poets, two males and one female, from four periods: The Enlightenment, Romanticism, Symbolism, and Surrealism. To demonstrate the timelessness of poetry, I also compose one poem based on each writer. My poems aim to maintain the original form, which includes rhyme scheme and meter as well as thematic developments, while recounting my experiences as a twenty-first-century American student. Linking twelve distinct voices to my own allows me to evaluate the poets’ relationships. The Enlightenment writers Voltaire, Adélaïde-Gillet Billet Dufrénoy, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, set literary precedents. Rousseau’s epistolary novel La Nouvelle Héloïse notably inspired Romantic writers, like Hugo, Louise Colet, and Baudelaire, who probed spiritual and natural interactions. Baudelaire’s vivid imagery in turn motivated Symbolists, including Mallarmé, René Vivien, and Verlaine. Digging further into unrestrained expression, Surrealists Breton, Éluard, and Joyce Mansour joined Symbolist and Romantic tendencies with post-war frustration. The twelve original poems, therefore, bridge the past and present all while intertwining the writers, principles, and history under study.


FR 496-497, French Honors Thesis