The French Revolution and Stendhal’s "The Red and the Black"


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Students find Stendhal’s great novel "The Red and the Black" highly readable and appealing, and it has been taught successfully in a variety of contexts. Regardless of context, however, because of the enormous scope of change in French history that shapes the novel, teaching it poses challenges. As one particularly effective way to meet those challenges, I propose teaching the novel in tandem with a study of the French Revolution that employs “Reacting to the Past” pedagogy. RTTP pedagogy uses games to engender engagement in historical issues not only at the intellectual, but also at the experiential level. Studying the French Revolution through this method enables students to appreciate the complex relations between the personal life of Stendhal’s hero, Julien Sorel, and his political and social situation. A course with the game and the novel at its core ensures a deep appreciation of the political and personal challenges of living during a pivotal era in European history.