French Language and Literature – in the Library and on the Web




Collins-Robert French-English, English-French Dictionary. 1990.

This dictionary contains over 110,000 entries and 110,000 phrases/idiomatic expressions. It tries to include British and American English, and Canadian French.   (Mugar Reference X PC2640 C69 1990)

Harrap’s New Standard French and English Dictionary. 1979.

The Harrap’s has a slightly British flavor to its translations, but does include American English. It is especially good at providing context for words, as well as colloquialisms and idioms.  (Mugar Reference X PC2640 H317 1979M)

Dictionary of Modern Colloquial French. 1984.

Although inevitably dated, these 8,000 entries are useful because of the way in which they place terms in phrases and attempt to provide an equivalent colloquial expression in English. Alternative spellings are included.  (Mugar PC2640 H47 1984)

French Only

Le nouveau petit Robert : dictionnaire alphabetique et analogique de la langue francaise. 2007 .

A scaled-down version of the Grand Robert (see below), the Petit Robert contains 60,000 entries. It is likely to be the dictionary of choice for most uses. In addition to definitions, it offers etymologies, pronunciations, synonyms, citations (often from prominent authors) showing the word in the context of a phrase and, most importantly, idiomatic expressions and/or word groups (e.g., “petits-pois”).    (Mugar Reference X PC2625 R554 2007) also: Electronic version

Le Petit Larousse Illustre: en couleur. 2001.

A 1,786 page encyclopedia with 87,000 articles, 4,600 illustrations, cartes, and designs. It is a popular desk dictionary.   (Mugar Reference X AG25 .L25 2001)

Dictionnaire de la langue francaise contenant: la nomenclature, la grammaire, la signification des mots, la partie historique, l’etymologie, par Emile Littre. 1873.

Four volumes included.   (Mugar Reference X PC2625 E73)

Grand Larousse de la langue francaise en six volumes. 1971.

Larousse is better known for encyclopedias than for dictionaries and this set feels a little like an encyclopedia. The definitions are less detailed and the phrases are fewer than those in the Grand Robert.   (Mugar Reference X PC2625 G7)

Le nouveau petit Robert : dictionnaire alphabtique et analogique de la langue francaise, nouvelle dition du Petit Robert de Paul Robert.
(Mugar X PC2625 R554 2007)


Dictionnaire historique de la langue francaise: contenant les mots francais en usage et quelques autres delaisses, avec leur origine proche et lointaine. 1993. Another publication of the Roberts, this two-volume work focuses on the etymology and history of current French. “Family trees” for important words are included, showing the influence of Latin and other languages on the French lexicon.

(Mugar Reference X PC2580 D52 1993)

Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue francaise. 1989. Smaller and less comprehensive than the preceding source, the Dictionnaire etymologique gives the histories of modern French words.

(Mugar Reference X PC2580 B55 1989)

Dictionnaire de l’ancienne langue francaise, et de tous ses dialectes du IXe au XVe siecle. 1880-1902. Although Godefroy first published this ten-volume edition at the turn of the century, it has remained a standard.

(Mugar Reference X PC2889 G6 1969)

Dictionnaire de la langue francaise; abrege du dictionnaire de E. Littre  1886.

(Mugar Reference X PC2625 B4)

Dictionnaire historique de l’ancien langage francois, ou Glossaire de la langue francoise depuis son origine jusqu’au siecle de Louis XIV, par La Curne de Sainte-Palay. 1875-82. Ten volumes (Mugar Reference X PC2889 S2)
Dictionnaire de la langue francaise du seizieme siecle. 1925. Huget is the author of this seven-volume set and composed the preface, giving a good overview of the French language as it was in the 1500s. He particularly notes the influence of Latin and Italian on the French of this period. Proverbial and idiomatic expressions, as well as numerous citations, assist in putting terms in context.  (Mugar Reference X PC2650 F25)
Tresor de la langue francaise; dictionnaire de la langue du XIXe et du XXe siecle (1789-1960). 1971. The editors of these sixteen volumes take a linguistic approach to the study of the language.

(Mugar Reference X PC2625 I4)

Le Dictionnaire universel.

Antoine Furetihre created this dictionary in the 1600s and as such it is useful for reading and critiquing XVIIe-century texts.  (Mugar Reference X PC 2620 F7 1978)

Dictionnaire de la langue francaise. 1863-1872. In four volumes, this set reproduces the thirty parts of Littre’s original. As an actual dictionary in use during the XIXe century, it is a valuable tool for literary studies.

(Mugar Reference X PC 2625 E73)


Dictionnaire historique de l’orthographe francaise. 1995.

Published by Larousse, this dictionary concentrates uniquely on the visual aspect of French. It consists of over 80,000 short entries detailing the changes which the spelling of contemporary words have undergone, and 2,000 longer articles on important words (e.g., “esprit”).   (Mugar Reference X PC2141 D53 1995)

Manuals of Grammar/Stylistics/Pronunciation

A Reference Grammar of Modern French. 1985.

In English, the Reference Grammar offers an impressively detailed analysis of French grammatical structure, including the distinctions between textual organization in written and spoken French.   (Mugar PC2105 J83 1985)

La Conjugaison: dictionnaire de douze mille verbes. 1990.

The first volume of the Bescherelle series, this is perhaps the most useful tool (other than a dictionary) for writing in French. It lists all French verbs and provides references to tables of conjugations in all tenses.  (Mugar PC2272 C66 1990)

Elements de stylistique francaise. 1991.

Molinie approaches stylistics from a linguistical background, distinguishing between “style” and “stylistique.” However he intends the book to be used to define and facilitate the use and analysis of a “maniere litteraire.”  (Mugar PC2410 M55 1991)

An Introduction to French Pronunciation. 1991.

The intent of this book is to provide support for people who already have a basic knowledge of French pronunciation, so that they can “listen in an informed way” to spoken French — which is the best means of learning pronunciation. The international phonetic alphabet is used and basic phonetic terminology is introduced.   (Mugar Reference X PC2272 C66 1990)

Guides to literary terms/theories/characters/plots

Literary Theory: An Introduction. 1996.

Terry Eagleton gives an excellent summary and explanation of the wealth of literary theories which have appeared in the last century. He provides some background and intellectual history, showing inter-relationships between theoretical camps. There is a good bibliography.   (Mugar PN94 E2 1996)

The Harper Handbook to Literature. 1985.

Edited by Northrop Frye, this is an alphabetically-arranged source containing concise definitions and examples of terms and concepts used in literary analysis.   (Mugar PN41 F75 1985)

Themes & Motifs in Western Literature: A Handbook. 1987.

This is a guide to important elements commonly appearing in literature. It includes character traits, myths, themes, motifs and images. Several textual examples and references to scholarly studies are given for each theme/motif.    (Mugar PN43 D34 1987)

Histories of the language/linguistics


Histoire de la langue francaise des origines anos jours. 1966-1979.

This is an extensive history, based on a continuum beginning with Latin and ending with modern French .   (Mugar PC2075 F66)

A History of the French language. 1989.

In contrast with the preceding source, this slim volume offers an overview of the French language, deliberately avoiding great detail.   (Mugar Reference PC2075 R5 1989)

Linguistic Change in French. 1997.

This book deals with the linguistic history of French, including the creolization of the language and sociolinguistic change. It also treats the processes of linguistic change and the lexical, semantic, phonological, morphological and syntactic changes which have taken place.   (Mugar PC2075 P64 1997)


The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. 2006 .

These 4 volumes contain articles on central linguistic themes, their related concepts and relationships with other disciplines. They intend to be authoritative, comprehensive and international in scope, while appealing to an academic audience. There is an alphabetic list of the articles; the longer entries are signed and followed by bibliographies.   (Mugar Reference X P29 E48 2006)

International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. 2003.

The goal of this source is to present articles on the full range of linguistic disciplines (applied, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, etc.) and their inter-relationships, as well as their intersections with other disciplines.   (Mugar Reference X P29 I58 2003)

Guides to authors/histories of literature


The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French. 1995.

This is a handbook to “literature in French,” with attempts to include Francophone literature. The Companion is not intended to be used as a full-scale, comprehensive encyclopedia; however, longer articles are signed and have a small bibliography.   (Mugar Reference X PQ41 N48)

Dictionnaire des litteratures de langue francaise. 1994.

This is an encyclopedic four-volume set which contains extensive signed articles on literary genres, themes, periods and people. Each article is followed by a very comprehensive bibliography. For articles on major authors or movements, a time-line compares their literary output with contemporary and biographical events. This is an excellent source for an overview of information and research on a topic or author, as well as for bibliographical information. It attempts to include all French and Francophone literature. (Mugar Reference X PQ41 B4 1994)

Manuel d’histoire litteraire de la France. 1966-1982.

These two volumes in our collection are written as a history of French literature, from Old French to the present day. Each chapter is devoted to a specific subject or time period. Detailed tables of contents, the index of cited names, and a brief bibliography found at the end of each volume are helpful. (Mugar Reference X PQ101 M3 1966)

A New History of French Literature. 1989.

This volume presents French literature within an historical and cultural context, through a series of thematic essays centered around key dates in French literature (such as 1181) or history (such as 1789). The authors provide a bibliography for each essay.   (Mugar PQ119 N48 1989)

By time period

Middle Ages: Litterature francaise: Le Moyen Age. 1970. It is part of a sixteen-volume collection on the history of French literature. They give historical and intellectual contexts, introduce genres and their histories, and offer an anthology of writings.
(Mugar PQ151 P49m)
Middle Ages: Precis de litterature francaise du Moyen Age. 1983. This volume portrays the essential characteristics and outlines of French writing from the eleventh through fifteenth centuries. It discusses genres and forms, as well as intellectual and historical contexts. The time-line contrasting contemporary events and literature, the bibliography, and the index are all helpful.
(Mugar PQ151 P7 1983)
XVIe: Litterature francaise: La Renaissance. 1972-1974. Part of a sixteen-volume collection on the history of French literature, the third volume treats 1480-1548, the fourth 1548-1570, and the fifth 1570-1624.They give historical, literary and intellectual contexts and an analysis of selected major authors.
(Mugar PQ231 F72)
XVIe: Precis de litterature francaise du XVIe siecle: La Renaissance. 1991. This volume describes the essential characteristics and outlines of French writing from 1480 to 1615. It discusses genres and forms, as well as intellectual and historical contexts.
(Mugar Reference X PQ231 P74 1991)
XVIIe: Litterature francaise: L’Age classique. 1968-1971. Part of a sixteen-volume collection on the history of French literature, the sixth volume treats 1624-1660, the seventh 1660-1680, and the eighth 1680-1720. They give historical, literary and intellectual contexts and offer an anthology of writings and a brief analysis of selected major authors.
(Mugar PQ241 F68)
XVIIe: Precis de litterature francaise du XVIIe siecle. 1990. This volume presents the essential characteristics and outlines of French writing from 1594 to 1715. Breaking the time period into four segments, important literary historians discuss genres and forms, as well as intellectual and historical contexts.
(Mugar PQ241 P7 1990)
XVIIIe: Litterature francaise: Le XVIIIe siecle. 1974. Part of a sixteen-volume collection on the history of French literature, the ninth volume treats 1720-1750, the tenth 1750-1778, and the eleventh 1778-1820. They give historical and intellectual contexts, introduce genres and their histories, and offer an analysis of selected major authors/works.
(Mugar PQ261 E35m)
XVIIIe-XIXe: Dictionary of Modern French Literature: From the Age of Reason through Realism. 1986.     300 entries on authors and literary works, arranged alphabetically, form the bulk of this source. It contains an index and two appendices: one a chronicle of this period of French history and the other grouping entries by subject matter.
(Mugar Reference X PQ41 D65 1986)
XXe: Litterature francaise: Le XXe siecle. 1975-1978. Part of a sixteen-volume collection on the history of French literature, the fifteenth volume treats 1896-1920 and the fourteenth 1920-1970.   They give historical and intellectual contexts, introduce literary movements, and offer an analysis of selected major authors.
(Mugar PQ305 V5m)


Dictionnaire des oeuvres litteraires negro-africaines de langue francaise: des origines a 1978. 1983.    The entries (one per literary work) are arranged alphabetically and are signed; there is no bibliography. An index makes it possible to find works by a given author.
(African Studies PQ3901 D56m)


Dictionnaire des oeuvres litteraires du Quebec. 1978-. Each of the volumes of this set covers a time period, from des origines… to 1980.    Every entry is signed and is followed by a bibliography.
(Mugar PQ3901 D56m)


French Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Source Book. 1991.     This book provides biographical information on some of the most well-known women writers of French literature –from the trobairitz to the twentieth century. Each long essay concludes with an extensive bibliography.
(Mugar Reference X PQ149 F73 1991)

Selected bibliographies

Internationale Bibliographie der Rezensionen wissenschaftlicher Literatur.-International Bibliography of Book Reviews of Scholarly Literature.-Bibliographie internationale des recensions de la litterature savante. 1971-present.   This useful index to book reviews is organized by author of the work being reviewed. There is also an index to the titles of the works reviewed, the reviewers, subjects, and periodicals.
(Mugar Reference X Z5051 I64)
Repere. 1984- 2008.      This Canadian source abstracts and indexes French-language “popular” journals (including book reviews), with an emphasis on Canadian titles. Mugar holds the edition abrigie, indexing 117 journals.
(Mugar Reference X AI7 P65)
Canadian Periodical Index-Index des periodiques canadiens. 1964 – 2002.    Mugar’s holdings start with volume nine of this source. The indexing includes literary journals, covering those from Quebec.
(Mugar AI3 F48)
XVIIe: Bibliography of French Seventeenth-Century Studies. 1952-1977.   This is a yearly compilation, which draws citations and provides short abstracts for articles from a variety of journals. Originally published by the MLA’s French Group III, it is occasionally known by that title.
(Mugar Reference X Z2172 M6)
General: Bibliographie de la litterature francaise du Moyen Age a nos jours. 1969, 1971, 1973-1980.   Often referred to by the name of the editor, Rancoeur, the bibliography was a yearly compilation of articles from a large number of periodicals. Each volume, organized by time period, includes a subject index and an index of writers covered. This bibliography was continued by incorporating it into issues of the periodical Revue d’histoire litteraire de la France
(Mugar PQ2 E94). (Mugar Reference X Z2171 B55m)
General: Guide to French Poetry Explication. 1993.    By poet, and then by poem, this book indicates where explications of particular works can be found. Poets from all centuries and countries are included, and there is an index to the critics who explicate the poems.
(Mugar PQ401 C65 1993)
Middle Ages: Manuel bibliographique de la litterature francaise du Moyen Age. 1951.  This source, and its three supplements (spanning 1949-1953, 1954-1960 and 1960-1980, respectively), indexes medieval works and subsequent studies of them (whether books or articles).
(Mugar Z2172 F511)
XVIe: Bibliographie de la litterature francaise du seizieme siecle. 1959.   Better known by the name of the compiler, the Cioranescu gives bibliographic details about works published in the sixteenth-century and subsequent studies of them (whether books or articles). This bibliography is a standard tool for sixteenth-century research.
(Mugar Z2172 C5)
XVIIe: Bibliographie de la litterature francaise du dix-septieme siecle. 1965-1966.   Also known by the name of the compiler, Cioranescu, it consists of three volumes detailing works published in the seventeenth-century and subsequent studies of them (whether books or articles). The set for the seventeenth-century is less complete than his index for the sixteenth-century.
(Mugar Z2172 C52)
XVIIIe: Bibliographie de la litterature francaise du dix-huitieme siecle. 1969.   Also known by the name of the compiler, this Cioranescu set consists of three volumes detailing works published in the eighteenth-century and subsequent studies of them (whether books or articles). This set is less complete than his index for the sixteenth-century.
(Mugar Z2172 C48)
The Lyrics of the Trouveres: A Research Guide (1970-1990). 1994 This bibliography covers the lyric production of the trouvhres from its beginnings to 1350″ (xi). It is selective and annotated; despite the subtitle it does include some important works published before 1970.  The entries are arranged into sections by topics, genres, and by the authors of the lyrics (an index to the authors of the studies is found in the back).
(Mugar Z2174 P7 D67 1994)
French Women Playwrights before the Twentieth Century: A Checklist. 1994.  This volume, and the accompanying French Women Playwrights of the Twentieth Century (Mugar Reference X Z2174 D7 B44 1996) provides a list of women playwrights, and their birth/death dates, profession, and works (published and unpublished). The listing is quite extensive and would be valuable for someone researching in this area. Occasionally other information, such as family relationships or prizes, is included. The time period ranges from the XVIe through the XIXe centuries.
(Mugar Z2174 D7 B43 1994)

Internet Sources