To the initiate in French studies, the term “French Literature” might be understood to mean anything — and everything — written in the French language. Etymologists would no doubt support this interpretation wholeheartedly. To scholars of French literature, however, the term has a very different meaning. Professors in the field generally consider French literature to be that written in France since the Middle Ages, a literature which stands apart from other written works in the French language. This is not to say that there is not a very substantial body of literature written, for instance, in French‐speaking Canada, or Algeria, Tunisia, Haiti, or a myriad of other places. Certain individuals specialize in the literature (French) of those countries, but they do not refer to those writings as “French Literature”; they label them “French‐Canadian Literature,” “French‐African Literature,” and the like. This essay will be limited to a discussion of French literature — the major literature of France, considered worthy of special attention or acclaim by readers and scholars worldwide.
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