'Paris je t'aime': Writing the City (MLF2071)

StaffProfessor Adam Watt - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Pre-requisitesMLF1001 or MLF1052 or equivalent
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module allows you to develop a critical sensitivity to genre, style and language by examining the different approaches taken in non-fiction and fiction alike, by writers of French and of English. You will also learn about the history of Paris as a capital, as a destination and as a construction – a real and an imaginary place. You will develop skills of close reading and critical analysis. In seminars you will hone presentation skills individually and in small groups. Valuable employment-related skills of independent research and preparation, of inter-cultural competence and cultural ethnography will be developed as you compare and contrast different accounts of the city.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a good general understanding of the set texts in their historical context.
  • 2. Demonstrate a critical engagement with the varying roles of Paris in the set texts.
  • 3. Draw productively on the recommended readings to enrich your understanding of how the city both informs and is constructed by those who write about it.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse and account for salient features of the set texts.
  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to compare and relate features of the set texts and recommended reading.
  • 6. Mount a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, mustering a range of textual evidence in its support, presented in appropriate academic form.
  • 7. Following guidance, locate, identify and utilise library and electronic resources on a given topic.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Demonstrate awareness of the constructed nature of local/national culture.
  • 9. Adopt a critical approach to the selection and organisation of material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument.
  • 10. Present a cogent and sustained argument orally and/or in writing, in English, on a topic chosen from a range of options provided, following broad guidelines but selecting and adapting them as required.
  • 11. Following references provided and working autonomously, research, plan and write an essay on a chosen aspect of the subject, to a specified length and deadline.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The lectures will begin with a wide-ranging introductory session, filling in some of the history of Paris and its place in contemporary culture. The core issues, as well as key writers and texts and the rationale for our approach to the course materials will be explored
  • Each of the four following lectures will explore a key notion (for example ‘Paris as destination’, for international artists and aspiring ‘provincials’; ‘Paris as a site of romance’ versus depictions of work in the city; ‘Everyday Paris’; ‘Parisian excess’ and so on). These lectures will range across set texts and recommended readings and will be comparative in their methodology. Their purpose is to give you critical points of reference for your reading and to provide frameworks for your thinking.
  • You will be strongly encouraged to read and view as widely as possible beyond the set texts (four or five per year) and to incorporate discussion of your independent reading/viewing into the seminars. These will be interactive and based on discussion of specific elements (passages, themes, methodologies, intersections) of the set texts or given pairs of texts. Student presentations will form part of the seminar activity; we will also discuss the formative and summative work during these sessions. The goal is better to understand the manifold ways in which Paris – a place, an idea, an ideal – provokes critical and creative responses from those who go there.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Lectures. Whole group sessions covering history and context, and presenting core issues of the module, illustrated with material from set texts and recommended reading/viewing.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Seminars. Each seminar will involve preparation of material specified on ELE; seminars will involve discussion, debate and, on occasion, short presentations in small groups.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion. Tutorial hour in seminar slots for recapitulation and summary.
Guided Independent Study134Reading and research

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay excerpt500 words1-11Individualised written comments; group feedback delivered orally, supported by slides.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002500 words1-11Individualised written comments; written group feedback delivered on ELE.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-11Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Prescribed reading

Set texts will be drawn from:


  • Maurice Agulhon, ‘Paris: la traversée d’est en ouest’ in Les Lieux de mémoire [1984-92], ed. by Pierre Nora, 3 vols (Paris: Quarto Gallimard, 1997), iii, pp. 4589-4622. E-copy available on ELE.
  • Eugène Dabit, L’Hôtel du Nord [1929] (Paris: Gallimard, 1999)
  • Marguerite Duras, selected journalism from Outside: papiers d’un jour (Paris: POL, 1984), inc. ‘Paris canaille’, ‘Tourisme à Paris’, ‘Racisme à Paris’, ‘Les deux ghettos’ [1957-61]. E-copy available on ELE.
  • Eric Hazan, Une traversée de Paris (Paris: Seuil, 2016)
  • Georges Perec, Tentative d’épuisement d’un lieu parisien [1975] (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1982) E-copy available on ELE.
  • Raymond Queneau, Zazie dans le métro [1959] (Paris: Gallimard, 1973)
  • Paul Valéry, ‘Fonction de Paris’ [1927] and ‘Présence de Paris’ [1937], in Œuvres complètes, ed. by Jean Hytier, 2 vols (Paris : Gallimard, 1957-60), ii, pp. 1007-1010, 1011-1015. E-copy available on ELE.


  • James Baldwin, ‘A question of identity’ and ‘Equal in Paris’, in Notes of a Native Son (1955) [e-copies on ELE]
  • Djuna Barnes, Nightwood [1936] (London: Faber, 2007)
  • Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris [1935] (London: Vintage, 1998)
  • Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast [1936] (London: Vintage, 2000)
  • Henry Miller, Quiet Days in Clichy [1956] (London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2016)
  • Hope Mirrlees, Paris: A Poem [1920] (London: Faber, 2020)
  • George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London [1933] (London: Penguin Modern Classics, 1989) Selected sections available on ELE.
  • Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight [1939] (London: Penguin, 2000)
  • Gertrude Stein, Paris France [1940] E-copy to be linked via ELE.

Recommended further reading/viewing


  • John Atherton, ‘1933, November: Americans in Paris’ in A New History of French Literature [1989], ed. by Denis Hollier (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), pp. 908-914.
  • Walter Benjamin, ‘Paris: Capital of the Nineteenth century’ [1935] in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, trans. by Edmund Jephcott (New York: HBJ, 1979), pp. 146-62.
  • John Calder, The Garden of Eros: The Story of the Paris Expatriates and the Post-War Literary Scene (London: Alma Books, 2013), esp. Ch. 1 ‘Paris after the war’, pp. 5-38.
  • Geoff Gilbert, ‘The Location of Experiment: Modernist Paris’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Paris, ed. by Anna-Louise Milne (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 189-211
  • Eric Hazan, L’Invention de Paris. Il n’y a pas de pas perdus (Paris: Seuil, 2004)
  • Andrew Hussey, Paris: The Secret History (New York: Viking, 2006)
  • Colin Jones, Paris: Biography of a City (London: Allen Lane, Penguin, 2004)
  • Dany Lafferière, Autoportrait de Paris avec chat [graphic novel] (Paris: Grasset, 2018)
  • Vahram Muratyan, Paris vs New York (Paris: 10-18, 2011) also online at http://parisvsnyc.blogspot.com
  • Anna-Louise Milne, ‘Introduction: The City as Book’ in The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Paris, pp. 1-18
  • Graham Robb, Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris (London: Picador, 2010)
  • Edmund White, The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris (London: Bloomsbury, 2001)


  • Woody Allen, dir., Midnight in Paris (2011)
  • Luc Besson, dir., Les aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)
  • *Jean-Pierre Jeunet, dir., Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)
  • *Mathieu Kassovitz, dir., La haine (1995)
  • *Martin Scorsese, dir., Hugo (2011)
  • *Agnès Varda, dir., Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)
  • *Various, dir., Paris je t’aime (2006)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Where PDFs/links to e-resources will be made available this is noted above. The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Paris is availably electronically via library log-in.

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

The films asterisked are available in the library on DVD.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Paris. French culture, cultural history, literature