Everyone knows something of nineteenth-century France - or do they? "Les Miserables", "The Lady of the Camelias" and "The Three Musketeers", "Balzac" and "Jules Verne" live in the popular consciousness as enduring human documents and cultural icons. Yet, the French nineteenth century was even more dynamic than the stereotype suggests. This exciting new introduction takes the literature of the period both as a window on past and present mindsets and as an object of fascination in its own right. Beginning with history, the century's biggest problem and potential, it looks at narrative responses to historical, political and social experience, before devoting central chapters to poetry, drama and novels - all genres the century radically reinvented. It then explores numerous modernities, ways nineteenth-century writing and mentalities look forward to our own, before turning to marginalities - subjects and voices the canon traditionally forgot. No genre was left unchanged by the nineteenth century. This book will help to discover them anew.