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Changing France

Changing France

Literature and Material Culture in the Second Empire

By Anne Green

Focusing on cultural areas such as exhibitions, transport, food, dress and photography, ‘Changing France’ shows how apparently trivial aspects of modern life provided Second Empire writers with a versatile means of thinking about deeper issues.

Hardback, 208 Pages


January 2011

£70.00, $115.00

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About This Book

The French Second Empire (1852-70) was a time of exceptionally rapid social, industrial and technological change. Guidebooks and manuals were produced in large numbers to help readers negotiate new cultural phenomena, and their concerns – including image-making, diet, stress, lack of time, and the frustrations of public transport – betray contemporary political tensions and social anxieties alongside the practical advice offered. French literature also underwent fundamental changes during this period, as writers such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Gautier, Hugo and Zola embraced ‘modernity’ and incorporated new technologies, fashions and inventions into their work. Focusing on cultural areas such as exhibitions, transport, food, dress and photography, ‘Changing France’ shows how apparently trivial aspects of modern life provided Second Empire writers with a versatile means of thinking about deeper issues. This volume brings literature and material culture together to reveal how writing itself changed as writers recognised the extraordinarily rich possibilities of expression opened up to them by the changing material world.


‘This lively, lucid, and meticulously researched book will be a rich resource for those wishing to know more of the burgeoning material culture of Second Empire France. It breaks new ground both in its exploration of how that culture, even at its most apparently trivial, reflected larger social and political anxieties; and in its compelling account of how the literature of the period responded to and engaged with it.’ —Professor Heather Glen, University of Cambridge

‘Anne Green has applied a deep knowledge of social history to the gamut of texts produced during the Second Empire, from the works of major novelists to railway manuals and fashion magazines. The result is a brilliant and engaging tour de force of literary and cultural analysis. This book should be required reading throughout the humanities and social sciences.’ —Professor Patricia Mainardi, City University of New York

‘A brilliant account of how literature responded to a materially changing world in Second Empire France. For laptops, spaceships, and climate change, read cameras, trains, and urban redevelopment. Meticulously researched, shrewdly argued, and beautifully written, this book offers important new perspectives on the relationship between culture and our lived environment.’ —Professor Roger Pearson, University of Oxford

‘Anne Green’s innovative and observant study engages illuminatingly with the responses of writers to certain fundamental changes affecting life in Second Empire France. ‘Changing France’ will be read with profit and enjoyment by specialists and the general Francophile reader alike, while reinforcing Green’s reputation as a leading authority on Flaubert.’ —Dr Michael Tilby, University of Cambridge

‘This beautifully crafted study is essential reading for anyone interested in the cultural history of Second Empire France. With immense erudition, exemplary clarity and an eye for the telling detail, Anne Green shows us how texts of every variety reflect the social, political and industrial upheavals of the era.’ —Professor Timothy Unwin, University of Bristol

Author Information

Anne Green is Professor of French at King’s College London, UK.


Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

Anthem European Studies

Anthem Studies in Popular Culture

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction; 2. Exhibitions; 3. Transport; 4. Food; 5. Photography; 6. Costume; 7. Ruins; 8. Conclusion; Bibliography; Index

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