No study of French history and literature would be complete without at least touching upon the work of the Enlightenment thinker, Voltaire. His well-known skepticism and acerbic wit tore at the foundations of traditional eighteenth-century French beliefs. Voltaire challenged many aspects of the accepted world order in his plays, essays, and novels. Today, his 1759 novel Candide stands out as the most enduring of his works and the most beloved by modern audiences. Its sharp satire but simple narrative style make it an engaging and accessible text for mid to upper level French students.
Before beginning Candide, consider previewing some of the relevant context to the novel. Students may need some background in pre-Revolutionary France and in the intellectual and philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment. Additionally, since the novel relies heavily on satire, students will need to be familiar with the purpose of satire and its literary characteristics. Use storyboards to introduce or reinforce many of these concepts. To keep your lessons fresh and inform your teaching, check out the suggested links below.
Chapter by chapter treatment of Voltaire’s literary processes (in French)
PDF download with a concise list of relevant vocabulary
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