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How to Read French Poetry
Explore top tips for reading poetry in French to improve reading comprehension
There is a long and rich tradition of poetry in the French language. From verse playwrights like Racine and Molière, to symbolists like Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine, to surrealists like Jacques Prévert and Andre Breton, and beyond.
Any A Level (high school) or undergraduate student of French will need to learn how to read poetry in French. Understanding French poetry can be challenging, however. Even for gifted students, poetic language can be complex, even if individual words or phrases are clear.
This course will equip you with a poetic toolkit to boost reading comprehension of French poetry. Based on real-life challenges and methodologies developed at Manchester Grammar School, the course will help you to approach French poetry with confidence.
Develop a universal poetic toolkit to analyse poetry in French
The poetic toolkit developed in this course will help you understand poetic form, poetic language, and the ‘sound effects’ of French poetry. You will learn how to identify the story and meaning of a poem, and how to try and deduce the poet’s purpose.
You will ultimately be able to speak with authority on poetry in French, with the assurance that you will be able to justify your comments.
Learning on this course
You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.
What will you achieve?
By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...
- Apply appropriate elements of the toolkit to new poems to make sense of them.
- Compare two or more poems on the same theme or by the same poet and identify points of similarity and of difference.
- Contribute to a discussion of a poem, learning from others and helping them in their learning.
- Critique poems according to a clear methodology.
- Demonstrate understanding of poetic technique and how it is used to control meaning and impact.
- Develop skills in identifying the most significant elements of a poem.
- Evaluate the success of a poet's attempts to convey meaning and feeling through elements of technique.
- Explain how a poem is put together and why it has its effect.
- Identify the formal and structural elements of poems and how the poet uses them for a particular effect.
- Interpret the imagery and other elements of a poem to arrive at a perception of the poet's intentions.
- Justify their particular reading of a poem by reference to its various elements.
- Modify their understanding of a poem in the light of comments made by other learners or their own further research.
- Reflect on a whole series of poems as the course progresses and use that reflection to inform responses to other poems as they are encountered.
- Summarise the meaning of a poem by giving a coherent account of its different elements.
Who is the course for?
This French reading course is aimed at three groups of learners:
- A Level (high school) students of French considering degree study.
- Undergraduate students seeking guidance on how to read French poetry.
- General interest readers interested in French poetry.
Understanding poetry can pose serious challenges in any language. This course focuses specifically on poetry in French. The skills learned, however, would be equally applicable for students of any poetry.
Who developed the course?
Our history dates back to the time of Henry VIII, when The Manchester Grammar School was founded in 1515 by Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, to provide ‘godliness and good learning’ to the poor boys of Manchester.
The School proceeded to build a reputation as one of the country’s leading educational establishments, a position it still holds today as an independent day school.
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