BA History and French / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Exoticism & Orientalism in C19th France: French Romantics and Local Colour

Course unit fact file
Unit code FREN30871
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit explores representations of otherness in early nineteenth-century French culture. In this period, which was marked by the advent of Romanticism, the rise of orientalism, and France’s colonial expansion, the need to negotiate and rethink the relationship between the French “self” and its “others” was felt, as is documented in a number of fictional texts and visual art forms. In the realm of aesthetics, the concept of couleur locale emerged to frame fictional representations of other cultures and landscapes. Focusing on a range of textual and visual materials, this course unit will contextualize this period concept and seek to rethink it with regard to modern cultural and postcolonial theory.



Available on :      All BA programmes including French



Pre/Co/Antirequisite units

Any second-year core French language unit; if taken as a free-choice unit a reading proficiency in French at B2 level or higher according to the Common European Framework of Reference for languages



  • To familiarize students with concepts of couleur locale, otherness, exoticism, orientalism and cultural stereotype.
  • To explore selected key features of the Romanticist aesthetics in France. 
  • To familiarize students with early nineteenth-century French history, culture and literature.
  • To encourage and enable students to verbalise and intellectualise their own responses to the texts and images studied

Teaching and learning methods





Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the role of the “other” in early nineteenth-century French culture. 
  • Show an understanding of the social, historical and political contexts for cultural production, from the Napoleonic Empire to the Second Republic.
  • Show an understanding of the key notions of couleur locale, exoticism and orientalism, and of their place in the conceptual frameworks of modern cultural and postcolonial theory.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Express a reasoned argument for a particular point of view.
  • Think critically – this will translate as a capacity to abstract, analyse and make critical judgement about primary and secondary sources under scrutiny.
  • Undertake synthesis and analysis of data and information relating to the primary and secondary sources studied.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Use the library, electronic and online resources.
  • Use reporting skills during student-led in-class activities.
  • Read in French to a near-native proficiency.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Undertake critical analyses of cultural objects and their contexts
  • Retrieve information, by independently gathering, synthesizing, sifting and organizing material from various sources.
  • Manage time and work to deadlines
  • Present complex findings in oral and written form with due regard to the target audience.
  • Make effective use of word processing and the Internet.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate both existing literature on the texts and painting studied and the primary set materials themselves. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by existing literature on the topic and the primary corpus of texts and images studied.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Analysis of a Painting/Poem - 40%

Open-book Exam - 60%

Feedback methods

  • oral feedback on individual and group presentations
  • oral feedback on draft plans during workshop
  • written feedback on the analysis
  • written feedback on the final exam
  • additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Set Texts:

Chateaubriand, François-René de, Atala (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 2007).
Hugo, Victor, Les Orientales – Les Feuilles d’Automne (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 2000). 

Mérimée, Prosper, Colomba (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1995).

These texts will be supplemented by a selection of Orientalist paintings including those by Delacroix, Horace Vernet and Prosper Marilhat.

Suggested Further Readings:

Edward Said, Orientalism [1978] – any edition

Peltre, Christine, Les Orientalistes (Paris: Hazan, 1997)

Thornton, Lynne, The Orientalists. Painter-Travellers 1828-1908 (Paris: ACR Edition, 1983)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Vladimir Kapor Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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