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Ferdinand Brunetière

Ferdinand Brunetière
Born Ferdinand Vincent-de-Paul Marie Brunetière
(1849-07-19)19 July 1849
Toulon, France
Died 9 December 1906(1906-12-09) (aged 57)
Occupation Literary critic
Language French
Nationality French

Ferdinand Brunetière (19 July 1849 – 9 December 1906) was a French writer and critic.


  • Personal and public life 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Career 1.2
    • Personal life 1.3
  • Works 2
  • References 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Personal and public life

Early years

Brunetière was born in Toulon, Var, Provence. After school at Marseille, he studied in Paris at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. Desiring a teaching career, he entered for examination at the École Normale Supérieure, but failed, and the outbreak of war in 1870 prevented him trying again. He turned to private tuition and literary criticism. After the publication of successful articles in the Revue Bleue, he became connected with the Revue des Deux Mondes, first as contributor, then as secretary and sub-editor, and finally, in 1893, as principal editor.


In 1886 Brunetière was appointed professor of French language and literature at the École Normale, a singular honour for one who had not passed through the academic mill; and later he presided with distinction over various conferences at the Sorbonne and elsewhere. He was decorated with the Legion of Honour in 1887, and became a member of the Académie française in 1893.

The published works of Brunetière consist largely of reprinted papers and lectures. They include six series of Etudes critiques (1880–1898) on French history and literature; Le Roman naturaliste (1883); Histoire et Littérature, three series (1884–1886); Questions de critique (1888; second series, 1890). The first volume of L'Evolution de genres dans l'histoire de la littérature, lectures in which a formal classification, founded on Darwinism, is applied to the phenomena of literature, appeared in 1890; and his later works include a series of studies (2 vols, 1894) on the evolution of French lyrical poetry during the 10th century, a history of French classic literature begun in 1904, a monograph on Honoré de Balzac (1906), and various pamphlets of a polemical nature dealing with questions of education, science and religion. Among these may be mentioned Discours académiques (1901), Discours de combat (1900, 1903), L'Action sociale du Christianisme (1904), Sur les chemins de la croyance (1905).

Personal life

Before 1895 Brunetière was widely known as an a rationalist, freethinking scholar. That year, however, he published an article, "Après une visite au Vatican," in which he argued that science was incapable of providing a convincing social morality and that faith alone could achieve that result.[1] Shortly afterwards, he converted to Roman Catholicism. As a Catholic, Brunetière was orthodox and his political sympathies were conservative. He possessed vast erudition and unflinching courage. He was never afraid to diverge from the established critical view. The most honest, if not the most impartial, of magisterial writers, he had a hatred of the unreal, and a contempt for the trivial; nobody was more merciless towards the pretentious. On the other hand, his intolerance, his sledge-hammer methods of attack and a certain dry pedantry alienated the sympathies of many who recognized his remarkable intellect.


  • Études Critiques sur l’Histoire de la Littérature Française (8 vols., 1880–1907).
  • Le Roman Naturaliste (1883).
  • Histoire et Littérature (3 vols., 1884).
  • Questions de Critique (1888).
  • Nouvelles Questions de Critique (1890).
  • Évolution de la Critique (1890).
  • Évolution des Genres dans l’Histoire de la Littérature (2 vols., 1890).
  • Epoques du Théâtre Français (2 vols., 1891–1892).
  • Histoire de la Littérature Française Classique (4 vols., 1891–1892).
  • Essais sur la Littérature Contemporaine (1892).
  • Évolution de la Poésie Lyrique en France au dix-neuvième Siècle (2 vols., 1892–1894).
  • Nouveaux Essais sur la Littérature Contemporaine (1895).
  • Bases de la Croyance (1896).
  • La Renaissance de l'Idéalisme (1896).
  • Manuel de l’Histoire de la Littérature Française (1898).
  • Discours Académiques (1901).
  • Les Raisons Actuelles de Croire (1901).
  • Victor Hugo (2 vols., 1902).
  • Variétés Littéraires (1904).
  • Cinq Lettres sur Ernest Renan (1904).
  • Sur les Chemins de la Croyance (1904).
  • Honoré de Balzac, 1799-1850 (1906).
  • Discours de Combat (3 vols., 1900–1907).
  • Lettres de Combat (posthumous, 1912).

Translated into English

  • Essays in French Literature (1898).
  • Manual of the History of French Literature (1898).
  • Honoré de Balzac (1906).
  • The Law of the Drama (1914).


  1. ^ Jennifer Michael Hecht. The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism and Anthropology in France, New York: Columbia University Press, 2003, pp. 172–176. ISBN 978-0-231-12846-9
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain


  • Dirk, Hoeges, Studien zur französischen Literaturkritik im 19.Jahrhundert. Taine - Brunetière - Hennequin - Guyau, Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg 1980. ISBN 3-533-02857-7

Further reading

  • Babbitt, Irving (1897). "Ferdinand Brunetière and his Critical Method," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 79, No. 476, pp. 757–765.
  • Bastide, Charles (1899). "M. Brunetière," The Fortnightly Review, Vol. 66, pp. 500–509.
  • Blaze de Bury, Yetta (1895). "Ferdinand Brunetière," The Fortnightly Review, Vol. 64, pp. 497–511.
  • Connolly, P.J. (1907). "Ferdinand Brunetière," The Dublin Review, Vol. CXLI, pp. 56–73.
  • Guerlac, Othon (1907). "Ferdinand Brunetière," The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 6, pp. 323–329.
  • Edgar, Pelham (1907). "Ferdinand Brunetière," The University Magazine, Vol. 6, pp. 107–116.
  • Schinz, Albert (1907). "Ferdinand Brunetière (1849-1906)," Modern Language Notes, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 56–57.
  • Wendell, Barrett & Louis Allard (1918). "Ferdinand Brunetière (1849-1900)," Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 53, No. 10, pp. 782–793.

External links

  • Works by or about Ferdinand Brunetière at Internet Archive
  • Works by Ferdinand Brunetière, at Hathi Trust
  • Works by Ferdinand Brunetière, at
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