The Literary Tour of Paris

Corri Seideman is a student at Pacific University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Paris, France

The history of Paris is a rich one, influencing many of the great authors from the 19th century who resided in the city. Between politics, war, and banishment, the Parisian lifestyle proved difficult for many of these early celebrities; however, their trials were captured in words and distributed via the newly invented printing press and the roman Feuilleton, reaching more readers than ever before. A few authors who thrived during this time include Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and George Sand, and their former residences have all been converted into museums.

Of course, perhaps the most famous author from this time period is Hugo, often titled the father of Romantic Literature. Victor Hugo was always considered a political author, often criticizing Napoleon (to the point of banishment) and the dichotomy of upper classes and lower classes. The ever-growing income disparity of the 19th century between the bourgeois and the poor drove his creative process, demonstrated as early as the 1830s, though it was not until Les Miserables (1862) that Hugo really began attacking the modern Parisian society. In Paris, the apartment he resided in from 1832-1848, now called Place des Vosges, is available for public viewing. 

This is the standing desk Victor Hugo used while living in Paris.

Another infamous author, born in the same year as Hugo, was Alexandre Dumas. Dumas wrote on similar topics as Hugo but got his start as a playwright before taking advantage of the roman Feuilleton. The roman Feuilleton was a type of novel in which stories were published daily, page by page, in a newspaper. This publishing was his claim to fame and many readers began to learn of the social injustice Dumas had noted. With famous novels such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of the Monte Cristo, the romantic hero tackled l’injustice sociale with a vengeance. In total, Dumas wrote over 257 pieces in his life-time. In Paris, near Le Port-Marly, the Chateau de Monte-Cristo (and Château D’If which is where his writing studio was based) has been open for viewing since 1994.

The last 19th century author on this tour was perhaps the most revolutionary author of the three. Focusing on the same topics as the other Romantic authors, George Sand had an edge on political writing. Aurore Dupin used pen name George Sand to overcome the gender barrier in literature. By taking on a masculine name, she was able to publish her writings, a radical act all on its own. Often depicted smoking a cigar, Sand defied all feminine expectations to show her struggles with social injustice. While the majority of her childhood was in Nohant, France, she was often hosted in Paris by Dutch artist Ary Scheffer in his residence. Today, the museum features an entire floor dedicated to Sand and includes family portraits, furniture and parts of her renowned jewelry collection.

The world awaits…discover it.

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