Page 239 Individuality and lâEsprit FranÃ§ais: On Gustave Lansonâs Pedagogy Mark Wolff oland Barthes once observed that the teaching of literary history in the French school system tends to equate the history of literature with national identity. Referring to the âclassicocentrismâ of his schooldays, Barthes recalls that âin the centered structure of the history of our literature, there is national identiï¬cation. The [literary] history manuals perpetually promote what are called typically French values or typically French temperaments.â1 For Barthes, the history of literature is an object that has meaning only in the context of the school. He emphasizes the objectivity of literary history, claiming that students have lost touch with the vitality of literature because it is taught to them as a series of arbitrary, stale categories. Barthes may be right to rebel against a mind-set he ï¬nds stiï¬ing for literary studies, but he misplaces his attacks, focusing on what educators taught instead of how they taught. What he perceives as classicocentrism resulted from the efforts of Third Republic educators who, under the leadership of Gustave Lanson, used literary history to construct a French cultural identity. The secular curriculum Lanson helped establish promoted a pedagogy that transmitted a
Modern Language Quarterly: A Journal of Literary History – Duke University Press
Published: Sep 1, 2001
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