Describing what France’s contribution to the evolution of the history of culture and art in all its expressions has been over the centuries seems like a huge purpose, so great is the number of French works in the fields of literature and painting., scientific and philosophical, political and existential thought, architecture, theater and cinema, which have become absolute reference points for world art. As far as literature is concerned, works have appeared on French soil in every epoch that represent cornerstones of genre or unique and inimitable masterpieces of universal value. Just think of the epic-humorous work of Rabelais (Gargantua et Pantagruel) or the intimistic and philosophical work of Montaigne (Essais), in the vein of which Voltaire’s irony and Rousseau’s political and pedagogical commitment were inserted two centuries later; at the theater of Molière, Corneille and Racine; to the great historical novel by Hugo and Stendhal and to Balzac’s Comédie humaine; to the “cursed” works, both in prose and poetry, by Flaubert and Baudelaire; up to the monumental cycle of novels À la recherche du temps perdu by Proust in the early twentieth century, which marks the definitive dissolution of the objective space-time reality in favor of the affirmation of the individual, of memory, of the unconscious. Even painting pays a debt to the great artists from beyond the Alps, especially from the nineteenth century, to Manet’s realism and to impressionism.by Monet, Sisley and Renoir; to the vivid and dynamic representations of the Parisian reality given by Edgar Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, to the colorful and exotic realism of Cézanne and Gaugin. As for the twentieth century, the influence of French painting is linked above all to the innovative and avant-garde experiences of the Fauvist and Cubist painters, to the Dadaism of Marcel Duchamp and the consequent surrealism.
According to Ehistorylib, the history of philosophy and universal science cannot afford to ignore French authors such as Descartes, whose methodical doubt is the foundation of modern philosophy; or the Enlightenment (Rousseau, Montesquieu, D’Holbach), whose political reflections are the basis of the constitutions of modern liberal and democratic states; while the Enciclopédie wanted and directed by Diderot and D’Alembert marks the beginning of a secular and egalitarian way of organizing knowledge. More recently, currents of thought such as Sartre’s existentialism, Levi-Strauss and Foucault’s structuralism, Derrida’s deconstructionism have constituted one of the most important figures of European cultural life of the last century. As for architecture, the French territory is rich in architectural masterpieces dating back to the most various trends and eras of history, however the styles of which the country is considered the world symbol are Gothic. of the cathedrals (Reims, Chartres and Amiens the most famous, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991, 1979 and 1981 respectively, in addition to the Notre-Dame cathedral and the Ste-Chapelle of Paris, of a later period) and the neoclassical style, a distinctive feature of Napoleonic and imperial Paris and of grandeur French in a broad sense. The country holds 37 sites registered in the UNESCO list of cultural heritage of humanity, ranging from prehistoric sites such as those of the Vézère valley, with the precious rock paintings of the Lascaux caves (1979), to the Roman remains of Arles and Orange ( 1981), to the surprising system of navigable waterways of the Canal du Midi (1996), to the fortifications of Carcassonne (1997) and Vauban (2008) to the landscape embroidered with vineyards of Burgundy and the places of origin of champagne, both included in 2015. As for the young cinematographic art, it has been linked since birth to the name of the legendary Lumière brothers, who were followed, among the various celebrities from beyond the Alps, by the pioneers of the silent film Méliès and Linder, the surrealist Cocteau, and, starting after World War II, nouvelle vague (Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol), as well as some actors who are part of the stars’ firmament. And to support these observations, it is worth mentioning the Cannes International Film Festival (second in importance only to the Hollywood Oscars ceremony) held every spring, attracting the most famous stars of the international film circuit to the Mediterranean town. Boasting such a prestigious cultural tradition, it is normal for the French people to defend their genius loci with extreme zeal.
Starting with the language, the French are in fact reputed to be one of the most conservative peoples on a linguistic level, and the resistance that the French language opposes to the pervasiveness of English is proverbial. After all, France boasts a prestigious past also as regards the scholastic tradition, being Paris the seat of the Sorbonne, one of the oldest university centers on the continent (founded in 1257). As far as traditions are concerned, the fact of having a centuries-old unitary history behind it has partly penalized this aspect, favoring, if anything, the uniformity of customs and the loss of the most particular folkloristic characters. However, it cannot be said that France lacks national indigenous traditions whose fame is now widespread all over the world. Among these, the musical genre of chanson française deserves a mention, which, dating back to the era of medieval troubadours, has achieved world fame since the 1930s, with the interpretations of the singer Edith Piaf. Other forms of musical entertainment that have acquired great luster in their French version are the variety and magazine genre, represented in Parisian clubs in the early twentieth century (Moulin Rouge). The mention is also a must for the gastronomic culture. Having risen to almost scientific dignity since the nineteenth century (the treatises by Carême, legendary pastry chef in the service of the major rulers of Europe, and especially by Auguste Escoffier, still constitute the bible of French chefs), French haute cuisine is admired and exported all over the world.