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French school debates of recent years, which are simultaneously debates about the French Republic’s identity and values, have generated a spate of internationally successful literature and film on the topic of education. While mainstream media and scholarly essays tend to treat these works as faithful representations of classroom reality, The Pedagogical Imagination takes a different approach. In this study of French education and republicanism as represented in twenty-first-century French literature and film, Leon Sachs shifts our attention from “what” literature and film say about education to “how” they say it. He argues that the most important literary and filmic treatments of French education in recent years—the works of Agnès Varda, Érik Orsenna, Abdellatif Kechiche, François Bégaudeau—do more than merely depict the present-day school crisis. They explore questions of education through experiments with form.
The Pedagogical Imagination shows how such techniques engage present-day readers and viewers in acts of interpretation that reproduce pedagogical principles of active, experiential learning—principles at the core of late nineteenth-century educational reform that became vehicles for the diffusion of republican ideology.