Individuality and l'Esprit Francais: On Gustave Lanson's Pedagogy

Individuality and l'Esprit Francais: On Gustave Lanson's Pedagogy Page 239 Individuality and l’Esprit Français: On Gustave Lanson’s 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 “classicocentrism” of his schooldays, Barthes recalls that “in the centered structure of the history of our literature, there is national identification. The [literary] history manuals perpetually promote what are called typically French values or typically French temperaments.”1 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 finds stifling 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 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modern Language Quarterly: A Journal of Literary History Duke University Press

Individuality and l'Esprit Francais: On Gustave Lanson's Pedagogy

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2001 by University of Washington
ISSN
0026-7929
eISSN
1527-1943
DOI
10.1215/00267929-62-3-239
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Page 239 Individuality and l’Esprit Français: On Gustave Lanson’s 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 “classicocentrism” of his schooldays, Barthes recalls that “in the centered structure of the history of our literature, there is national identification. The [literary] history manuals perpetually promote what are called typically French values or typically French temperaments.”1 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 finds stifling 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

Journal

Modern Language Quarterly: A Journal of Literary HistoryDuke University Press

Published: Sep 1, 2001

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