Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Humour and Literature
Academic Year
Semester 2
Eligibility for entry to level 3 French

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Written Essay  Two essays of 2000 words. The better essay will count for 75%, the weaker of the two for 25%. If a student fails to submit one piece of the two required, and does not supply the tutor concerned with valid reasons/evidence in writing, the mark for the one piece of work submitted will be carried forward as a continuous assessment mark, but divided by two. If no assessed work is submitted, the mark for the continuous assessment element (which will be fed into the overall module assessment) will be zero.  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Exam  50%
Supplementary Assessment Written Essay  Resubmit all failed or missed elements 2000 Words  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Resit the exam if failed or missed  50%

Learning Outcomes

1. Demonstrate a better grasp of French language and registers.
2. Develop and demonstrate analytical skills in French literary texts.
3. Develop a knowledge of various comic writings and genres seminal to French culture, and an understanding of different forms of humour.
4. Be able to historically contextualise the studied texts and their use of humour.
5. Develop an understanding of the development of comic literature in its historical and artistic continuity, in relationship with the main artistic movements in France (Outcome only in the Final Year version of the module.)
6. Demonstrate an understanding of how humour is constructed in literary, political and aesthetic terms.
7. Develop a good understanding of the types of approaches to comic literature found in secondary literature. (Outcome only in the Final Year version of the module.)
8. Relate and articulate 'écriture comique' to other genres, and also to other 'national' humours.
9. Demonstrate a cultural awareness of its relevance to contemporary French issues.


The aim of this module is to focus on the development, from the early modern times to the 20th century, of ‘comic writing’ in French literature. We are studying it through a range of forms (novel, theatre, short writings), to understand their particular mechanisms (such as ‘stage humour’ versus ‘reading humour’). Our goal is to understand how they convey particular messages through laughter, and how they relate to the society in which these texts were produced.
Next to the understanding of historical context and development, and stylistic features, another key ambition of the module is to enhance students’ analytical skills, and their understanding of related artistic, critical and philosophical notions (such as Bergson’s theory of laughter and psychoanalytical theories related to humour). The classes alternate lectures on historical development and broader topics, and seminars offering close readings of key texts.

Brief description

This module, taught in French, will introduce students to different forms of comic writings and how they introduce, redefine, manipulate and create humour. Through the combined study of novels, plays and short stories, students will explore and develop their understanding of comic writing and humour, its varied facets (satire, parody, humour noir etc.) and its functions. The module will provide them with the critical tools to understand these forms of humour and to elaborate on the concept of 'comic writing' as a whole, both in the works of an author and in its historical and intellectual context.


W1 : Lecture : Introduction: comic effect and literature. Seminar : Rabelais : introduction
W2 : Lecture : Conception and levels of comic writing in Rabelais Seminar : Preface to Gargantua : study of the text
W3 : Lecture : Thélème. Conclusion on Rabelais. Seminar : The humour of the philosophers
W4 : Lecture : The Figaro trilogy. Seminar : Comic characters
W5 : Lecture : Comic and serious : Figaro’s monologue Seminar : the vaudeville: study of the text. Conclusion on Beaumarchais
Reading week W6
W7 : Lecture : Alphone Allais : introduction Seminar : Allais : comic, absurd, nonsensical
W8 : Lecture : Allais - wordplays Seminar : Allais : the invention of ‘black’ humour
W9 : Lecture : Jarry : the « comic » danger (Ubu roi; Doctor Faustroll) Seminar : Surrealist humour
W10 : Lecture : Vian : introduction. Seminar : Satire and verbal innovation
W11 : Lecture : humour and tragic. Seminar : Conclusion on Vian ; summing up of the semester

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Very limited (calculation of occurrences of expressions of a word in a text possible).
Communication Development of clear and accurate expression, assessed for writing.
Improving own Learning and Performance The quality of independent thinking will be assessed in the essay assignment.
Information Technology Students have to find on-line and printed secondary literature.
Personal Development and Career planning Ability to work independently, identifying research questions. Awareness of the changing nature of various text forms. Capacity to structure in coherent form, and present in clear style
Problem solving Students have to find relevant secondary literature for the essay assignment.
Research skills Yes – students have to do independent research in preparation for their essays.
Subject Specific Skills Yes – students learn to follow specific techniques of literary analysis, and apply these to texts studied in class and of their own choice.
Team work None


This module is at CQFW Level 6