FR30280 Diderot: Creative Iconoclast

Academic Year 2020/2021

Denis Diderot (1713-84), key inventive figure behind the vast French Enlightenment project 'L'Encyclopedie', was one of the most radical and original writers of 18th-century France. However, this philosophe's ground-breaking works -mainly published posthumously- were composed in a unique pre-revolutionary literary climate when censorship prevailed, silencing innovative, offensive and subversive writings. Typically, his texts play with ideas, voice, satire, narrative, actors/spectators, art, music, and the reader; they challenge contemporary norms of genre and register; they fuse narrative and philosophical ideas; they stretch the rules of aesthetics and morals. In this module, students engage in close reading and literary analysis of a number of Diderot's key prose texts across different genres (e.g. a choice from: novel/ satire/ philosophical dialogue/ short story), while situating them within the challenging contemporary Enlightenment and pre-revolutionary literary world.

NB: Given the complexity of their publishing history, it is ESSENTIAL that students purchase the three set texts in the correct prescribed edition (see International Books or BrightSpace info or contact the convenor for futher details).

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

- read (in French) and discuss a number of Diderot's key 18th-century narratives
- situate the set texts within Enlightenment/ pre-revolutionary contexts
- engage critically with Diderot's literary innovations in narrative and genre
- conduct successful, well-organised close literary analysis on textual excerpts (critical analysis)
- synthesise their study of Diderot's narratives into a coherent and well-structured essay

Indicative Module Content:

Probable curriculum will include a selection of some of the following Diderot texts:

-novel (La Religieuse; le Neveu de Rameau; others)
-contes (Ceci n'est pas un conte; others)
-philosophical pieces (Pensées philosophiques; Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville)

check with module convenor for set texts

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures (weekly): supported by online material and BrightSpace tasks

Seminars (weekly): small-group teaching that hones in on details/short excerpts via task-based learning, peer debate and analysis, critical analysis assignments

Group work: active development within peer group of critical analysis skills (core literary skill); critical discussion

Reflective learning: students are invited to step out of the text to respond to short extracts/ images and/ or to draft plans/ proposed approaches to their critical analysis assignment or essay-writing assignment

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: Midterm Critical Analysis on either 'Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville' or 'Jacques le fataliste' Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Journal: Blog entries capturing learning journey across all 3 texts (en français) Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: End of trimester choice of essay or critical analysis Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Following your midterm critical analysis, you will get pointers around the key elements, including an audio file via BrightSpace.

Name Role
Professor Michael Brophy Lecturer / Co-Lecturer