Lectures on André Gide

This is a series of four lectures on the works and career of the author André Gide (1869–1951). I delivered the lectures at Oxford University in 2017 and 2018, mainly for undergraduate students studying French literature in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages. I have made them available here in the hope that they will continue to be of use to more students and readers.

This lecture series was previously delivered by Professor Toby Garfitt of Magdalen College, until his retirement as a college tutor, and the text of my lectures owes a considerable debt to his work.

Overview

Although the lectures are adapted to the specific needs of students at Oxford University, they provide a broad overview of Gide’s career, a discussion of some of the major themes and problems of his work, and a detailed discussion of extracts from some of his most widely read works. One of my main aims in these lectures is to direct readers towards some of Gide’s shorter works, which are now less widely read, but are arguably some of his most fascinating. I have tried to demonstrate how these relate to such major works as L’Immoraliste (1902) or Les Faux-monnayeurs (1925). One oversight is that there is very little mention of Gide’s writing for the theatre; this continues to be an under-appreciated part of Gide’s literary production, and I regret that I have done nothing to help remedy this.

I have provided here, with some adaptation, the information that I originally gave to student on handouts at the lectures. This includes some general guidance on approaching Gide’s work, a small selection of critical works on Gide, a summary of the content of the lectures, and a list of important dates.

Recommended reading from primary texts

Most of Gide’s works have been published in a series of excellent critical editions in Gallimard’s Bibliothèque de la Pléiade series. In the lectures, references will be made to these editions. They contain very useful notes and bibliographic information.

The texts prescribed for commentaries for Paper XI are: L’Immoraliste, La Porte étroite, Les Faux-monnayeurs, and Si le grain ne meurt. You need to know these texts very well, but you should also read a selection of Gide’s other texts.

Other prose fiction (various genres): Paludes, El Hadj, Le Retour de l’enfant prodigue, Isabelle, Les Caves du Vatican, La Symphonie pastorale.

Miscellaneous: Les Nourritures terrestres, Corydon, Journal des Faux-monnayeurs (Gide’s diary of writing Les Faux-monnayeurs), parts of the Journal.

A bit off the beaten track: Les Cahiers d’André Walter, L’École des femmes, Voyage au Congo, Retour de l’URSS.

Critical works on Gide

There is a huge amount. This is just a selection, focusing more on the older works of criticism, which remain very useful and influential. But some very good new work continues to be produced.

If you would like to buy any of these books, please avoid funding Amazon or its subsidiary abebooks, and instead support one of these booksellers, which have a huge range of books by or on Gide, both new and second hand: Blackwells (UK, ships worldwide), Biblio (worldwide network of independent booksellers). These links will also send me a small commission.

Biographies:

  • Alan Sheridan, André Gide: A Life in the Present (1998).
  • Eric Deschodt, Gide, le ‘contemporain capital’ (1991).
  • Jean Delay, La Jeunesse d’André Gide (1956–57)
  • Martin, Claude, La Maturité d’André Gide: de ‘Paludes’ à ‘L’Immoraliste’ (1895–1902) (1977)

General:

  • Germaine Brée, André Gide: l’insaisissable Protée (1953).
  • Alain Goulet, Fiction et vie sociale dans l’œuvre d’André Gide (1985); André Gide, écrire pour vivre (2002).
  • George Ireland, Gide (1963).
  • Patrick Pollard, André Gide: Homosexual Moralist (1991).
  • Pierre Masson (ed.), Dictionnaire Gide (2011).

On novels:

  • David Walker, André Gide (1990).
  • William Holdheim, Theory and Practice of the Novel (1968).
  • Michel Raimond, La Crise du roman (1966).

On individual récits:

  • Laurence Porter, ‘Autobiography Versus Confessional Novel: Gide’s L’Immoraliste and Si le grain ne meurt’, Symposium 30/2 (1976).
  • Naomi Segal, chapter on La Porte étroite in Narcissus and Echo (1988).

On Les Faux-monnayeurs:

  • Roman 20–50, 11 (1991), special issue on ‘Les Faux-monnayeurs d’André Gide’.
  • Alain Goulet, Les Faux-monnayeurs, mode d’emploi (1991); Lire les Faux-monnayeurs (1994).
  • Michael Tilby, Les Faux-monnayeurs (Grant & Cutler Critical Guides, 1981).

On autobiography:

  • Philippe Lejeune, Le Pacte autobiographique (1975), and others.
  • Alain Goulet, ‘La Construction du moi’, Texte 1 (1982).
  • Michael Sheringham, section on Si le grain ne meurt in French Autobiography (1993).
  • C.D.E. Tolton, Gide and the Art of Autobiography (1975).

On diaries in Gide’s work:

  • Daniel Moutote, Le Journal de Gide et les probèmes du moi (1889–1925) (1968)
  • Sam Ferguson, Diaries Real and Fictional in Twentieth-Century French Writing (2018).

Summary of topics discussed in the lectures

Lecture 1:

  • Introductory comments
  • A brief overview, with periodisation by Alain Goulet
  • Gide’s childhood
  • Les Cahiers d’André Walter (1891)
  • Gide’s travels, homosexuality, and recovery from tuberculosis
  • Paludes (1895)
  • Commentary: preface to Paludes

Lecture 2:

  • Oscar Wilde
  • Les Nourritures terrestres (1897)
  • El Hadj (1899 book publication, 1896 journal publication)
  • L’Immoraliste (1902)
  • La Porte étroite (1909)
  • Commentary: La Porte étroite

Lecture 3:

  • Le Retour de l’enfant prodigue (1907), the theme of family
  • The creation of the Nouvelle Revue française
  • Isabelle (1911)
  • Les Caves du Vatican (1914)
  • Se le grain ne meurt (1926)
  • Corydon (1924), theme of homosexuality
  • Commentary: Si le grain ne meurt

Lecture 4:

  • La Symphonie pastorale (1919)
  • Les Faux-monnayeurs (1925)
    • Historical perspective
    • ‘Faits divers’ and the use of reality in the novel
    • Engagement with the genre of the roman
    • Le Journal des faux-monnayeurs, mise en abyme
    • The ‘epic’
  • Later works
    • Voyage au Congo (1927)
    • L’École des femmes trilogy (starting 1929)
    • Communist engagement and Retour de l’URSS (1936)
    • Diaries
  • Commentary: Les Faux-monnayeurs

Important dates

  • Born 1969
  • 1891: Les Cahiers d’André Walter (roman?)
  • 1893–94: first trip to North Africa
  • 1895: Paludes (traité, later classed by Gide as a sotie)
  • 1897: Les Nourritures terrestres (unclassifiable, perhaps prose poetry)
  • 1899: El Hadj (traité, earlier publication in a journal in 1896)
  • 1899: Le Prométhée mal enchaîné (traité, later classed as a sotie)
  • 1902: L’Immoraliste (récit)
  • 1907: Le Retour de l’enfant prodigue (traité / dialogue)
  • 1909: La Porte étroite (récit)
  • 1911: Isabelle (récit)
  • 1914: Les Caves du Vatican (sotie, a sort of comic novel)
  • 1919: La Symphonie pastorale (récit)
  • 1924: Corydon (Socratic dialogue about homosexuality)
  • 1925: Les Faux-monnayeurs (roman)
  • 1926: Le Journal des faux-monnayeurs (diary of the process of writing Les Faux-monnayeurs)
  • 1926: Si le grain ne meurt (autobiography, extracts first published in the NRF in 1920)
  • 1927: Voyage au Congo
  • 1929: L’École des femmes (récit)
  • 1936: Retour de l’URSS (condemnation of the Soviet Union, after his official visit)
  • 1939: Journal 1889–1939 (most of his diary written up to this time)
  • 1947: Nobel Prize for Literature
  • 1951: Et nunc manet in te (some autobiography and diary, relating to his relationship with his wife)
  • Died 1951
  • 1952: added to the Catholic Church’s ‘Index Librorum Prohibitorum’ (list of banned books)