BA French and Russian / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Stardom in France

Course unit fact file
Unit code FREN21772
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


As mediatised figures adored, reviled and scrutinized by mass audiences, stars reveal important trends within national popular culture and the values it espouses. As well as being real individuals, stars are intricately constructed ‘media texts’ that often reconcile opposites (publicity and intimacy, idealism and ordinariness, Zeitgeist and legacy). As such they form complex systems of significations that offer illuminating insights into the ambiguities of a given society – in this case, France.   

This course unit focuses on French celebrities from different time periods and from a range of artistic domains (literature, cinema, popular music, visual arts …), with varied gender, class and ethnic profiles, holding both mainstream and niche appeal. This diversity enables us to interrogate the production and consumption of popular culture in France, and to illustrate and problematise key issues shaping French society. These may include, depending on staff specialism and the stars studied, intellectual engagement, feminism, subversion, resilience, irony, cultural heritage...  

After an introduction to star theory in the French context, the course examines a selection of stars through the combined vantage points of artistic achievement, critical reception, official discourse and fandom.


The principal aims of this course unit are: 

  • To know and recognize major French stars across a range of media and time periods 
  • To interrogate the notions of ‘stardom’, ‘mainstream culture’ and ‘legacy’ in France 
  • To explore the relationship between stardom and wider socio-cultural contexts 
  • To analyse critically a range of media (films, songs, books…)  

Knowledge and understanding

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

  • Relate the close textual analysis of films, songs or other art forms to wider socio-historical processes and contexts 
  • Understand the impact of social and attitudes on stardom 
  • Understand the potential of stardom for socio-political commentary 
  • Analyse star texts across genres, time periods and intellectual issues 
  • Apply theories and secondary reading to their understanding of stardom in France 

Intellectual skills

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

  • Engage in independent reflection and enquiry. 
  • Conduct in-depth research into key stars and the context of their success.  
  • Engage in the discussion and critical evaluation of star theory, and critically evaluate the place and meanings of key notions in French society, including gender, ethnicity, intellectualism, popular success and the construction of ‘authenticity’. 
  • Analyse primary sources and provide a synthesis of the most relevant findings. 

Practical skills

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

  • Conduct close textual analysis of ‘star texts’ 
  • Construct a persuasive argument in clear language, grounded in research 
  • Work individually and collaboratively to deadlines 
  • Improve their reading and speaking skills in French 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • Engage in independent reflection and enquiry. 
  • Explain complex findings with precision and concision, across a range of media.  
  • Communicate effectively about intellectually grounded topics, notions and materials. 
  • Write a report or essay on a piece of original research. 
  • Engage in group discussion. 
  • Take initiative. 

Employability skills

Group/team working
Group/team working; Initative and creativity; Problem-solving; Critical thinking; Reading and speaking in French and English; Effective presentation skills, in oral and written forms.
The course will have particular benefits for students interested in pursuing a career in teaching and learning, diversity and identity management, journalism and the creative industries. The course enhances skills of analysis, synthesis, oral presentation, and written reporting. The course also encourages students to reflect upon the world outside the University, thereby providing confidence in applying academic research to a variety of non-academic environments.

Assessment methods

Assessment task Weighting within unit
Case study 40%
Essay plan 0% (formative)
Essay 60%


Feedback methods

  • Formative feedback on students’ in-class participation (oral) 
  • Formative individual feedback on essay plans (written) 
  • Summative feedback on both assessment tasks (written) 
  • Additional one-to-one feedback during consultation hours or by appointment (oral). 

Recommended reading

Beauvoir, Simone de. Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita syndrome (London: André Deutsch, 1960) 

Dyer, Richard. Stars (British Film Institute, 1979) 

Gaffney, John and Diana Holmes (eds). Stardom in Postwar France (Oxford: Berghahn, 2007)  

Harris, Sue. ‘Degraded divinity? Sacred monstrosity? Gérard Depardieu and the Abject Star Body’, Screen, 2015, 56/3, pp. 319-334.  

Lebrun, Barbara. Dalida. Mythe et mémoire (Marseille : Le Mot et le reste, 2020) 

Looseley, David. ‘ “Une passion française”: the mourning of Johnny Hallyday’, French Cultural Studies, 2018, 29/4, pp. 378-388 

Morin, Edgar. Les Stars (Paris: Seuil, 1957).  

Starr, Joey, with Philippe Manoeuvre. Mauvaise réputation: récit (Paris : J’ai Lu, 2006)  

Taylor, Alison. ‘Who the hell is Isabelle Huppert? A French star in America’, in Nick Rees Roberts and Darren Waldron (eds), Isabelle Huppert. Stardom, Performance, Authorship (New York: Bloomsbury Academic), pp. 197-216 

Vincendeau, Ginette. Stars and Stardom in French cinema (London: Continuum, 2000) 


Further reading will be recommended in class. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 160

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Barbara Lebrun Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Please Note: This unit is largely delivered in French.

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