French Literature Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Jennifer Vinopal, Selector for French Literature


The French collection supports CAS & GSAS programs in French through the doctoral level. Emphasis is on literature, language, and civilization. Civilization is interpreted here as including broader cultural works affecting the study of literature, including theater and cinema.

The collection also supports course work and research in the following programs: Africana Studies; Comparative Literature; Dramatic Literature, Theatre History, and the Cinema; Literature in Translation; Medieval and Renaissance Studies; Women's Studies; and the Foreign Language Education program at the School of Education.

The interdisciplinary approach of courses and research within the French department (especially for, but not restricted to, medieval and renaissance studies) and the interdisciplinary programs on contemporary French society and culture of the Institute of French Studies, which emphasize humanistic social studies as well as French culture, history, politics, and sociology, are supported by the various pertinent collections in history, philosophy, religion, the social sciences, and the sciences.

The library does not acquire or provide specific funding for materials which are exclusively required for the graduate programs in French of NYU in France.


  1. Language

    The collection consists principally of literary texts and criticism in French. Works of major authors are also collected in English translation. Criticism and literary history and theory are collected in French as well as in English. Collecting in other Western European languages is highly selective.

  2. Geographical Areas

    Coverage emphasizes the literature of France, with minor emphasis on that of Canada and Belgium. An attempt is made to collect a representative body of literature from the French-speaking countries of the Maghreb, especially Algeria, and sub-Saharan Africa. For coverage of literature from the Caribbean, check the Collection Development Policy Statement for Latin-American and Caribbean studies.

  3. Chronological Periods

    Coverage of French literature is from the medieval period to the present with current emphasis on all centuries.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Monographs, monographic series, serials, newspapers, proceedings, facsimiles, reprints, microforms, audio-visual and electronic media (including electronic texts). Exhibition catalogs and dissertations are acquired very selectively.

  2. Excluded

    Dissertations when requested only for individual research, manuscripts, textbooks, ephemera, maps.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

The collection's strengths lie in French medieval literature and in 19th- and 20th-century French literature; among specific movements, French symbolism and surrealism (19th- and 20th-century respectively) should be noted.

The collection is weak in literature in French from sub-Saharan Africa although a representative collection is being developed. When possible, cooperative projects are pursued, especially with Columbia University Libraries to collect materials in areas of mutual interest. In this context, Bobst Library is developing a strong collection in francophone belles-lettres by Algerian authors.

Important gaps exist in those support collections that are of importance to interdisciplinary research particularly in the medieval, 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries: among others, medieval and renaissance science, the renaissance humanistic endeavor, primary works in Latin, primary works in religion.

Preservation of materials is quite problematic as many basic works are in fragile condition and have brittle paper, while, on the other hand, a large number of French imprints are currently available only in paperback editions (reference works included). An effort is made to identify brittle materials to be reviewed for filming and/or replacement.

Continuing efforts will focus on the development of a collection strong in all areas, from the Middle Ages to the present, the acquisition of multiple copies of works in heavy demand, the filling of gaps in major primary and secondary sources, advocacy for the strenghtening of the support disciplines and collections that allow for an interdisciplinary approach, and the systematic identification and replacement of missing or worn volumes of standard works. In the last few years, major retrospective projects focussing on the Middle Ages, 17th and 19th centuries, gay and lesbian authors, Maghreb and sub-Saharan authors have been accomplished. Furthermore, missing volumes in important series, such as, e.g. La Bibliothéque de la Pléiade, have been replaced on a consistent basis.

Other Resources

  1. The Fales Library Special Collections include seven manuscript versions of Celine's "Entretiens avec le Professeur Y" as well as manuscript pages corresponding to pp. 72-129 of the 1957 Gallimard edition of Celine's works.
  2. The Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media houses the Samuel Beckett Audio visual Archives, the largest tape and video collection of his work in the world. Included among the holdings are Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Shades, and Silence to Silence. In many cases, the collection includes the French, German, and English versions of a single work.
  3. Instructional materials (including language tapes acquired by the language lab) are available in the Lewis Levine Language Laboratory in the Avery Fisher Center.
  4. For additional information regarding the library's collection in French see the following statements: Comparative Literature; Film and Broadcasting; Performing Arts; Philosophy and Religion; Politics; Sociology; World History.

Subjects & Collecting Levels

LC Class Subject ECS CCI DES.
PC 2001-3761 French Language B B C
PC 2921-3171 French Dialects A A A
PC 3201-3420 Provencal A B B
PQ 1-3999 French Literature
In particular, Hagiography (devotional works, saints' lives); didactic poetry; Chansons de geste; romans; satirical works; fabliaux.
16th century
In particular, the Pleiade; Humanism; pre-classical theatre; Montaigne, Rabelais; prose genres.
17th century
In particular, Classical tragedy (Corneille, Racine); Comedy (Moliere); Baroque theater and poetry; Moralistes and free thinkers (Descartes, Pascal).
18th century
In particular, Romanciers (Marivaux, Prevost, Lesage); Philosophes and the Encyclopedie (including Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot); Theater (Beaumarchais).
19th century
In particular, Romanticism, Symbolism, Naturalism, 19th-century theater; Chateaubriand, Balzac; Stendhal; Flaubert; Baudelaire; Rimbaud; Mallarme; Hugo; Zola.
20th century
In particular, Roman (including nouveau roman and post-nouveau roman); Existentialism/Structuralism; Post-Structuralism; Surrealism; Contemporary poetry, theater and cinema; Beckett; Proust; Celine; as well as contemporary essayists and critical writers.
PQ781-841 Folklore & Literature A A B
PQ 3810-3856
PQ 1411-2651 Belgian Literature B B C
PQ 3900-3919 French Canadian Literature B B C
PQ 3940-3949 French Literature: Caribbean A B C
PQ 3980-3989 French Literature: Africa
In particular, Algeria.
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