French Academy

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

French Academy

(L'Académie française), learned society of France. It is one of the five societies of the Institut de FranceInstitut de France
, cultural institution of the French state. Founded in 1795 by the Directory, it replaced five learned societies that had been suppressed in 1793 by the Convention.
..... Click the link for more information.


The origins of the academy were in a coterie of literary men who met informally in Paris in the early 1630s to discuss rhetoric and criticism. Recognized by Cardinal Richelieu, the academy received the royal letters patent in 1635 (registered by the Parlement of Paris in 1637). Its aims included chiefly the governance of French literary effort, grammar, orthography, and rhetoric. The membership was soon fixed at 40 (called often, because of their former motto, "the forty immortals") and was established as self-perpetuating, with a veto of elections reserved to the official protecteur (or patron), later to the state. The first notable act of the society was the criticism of the Cid of Pierre CorneilleCorneille, Pierre
, 1606–84, French dramatist, ranking with Racine as a master of French classical tragedy. Educated by Jesuits, he practiced law briefly in his native Rouen and moved to Paris after the favorable reception of his first play, Mélite
..... Click the link for more information.

After Richelieu's death (1642) the patronate went (1643) to Pierre Séguier, the chancellor; on his death (1672), King Louis XIV assumed the position of protecteur, which remained ever after a prerogative of the head of the French state. The suppression of the academies in 1793 ended the French Academy; it reappeared in the second class of Napoleon's Institut (1803), and the old name and organization were "restored" in the first division of the Institut of 1816.

The academy has often been accused of literary conservatism, owing to the failure of certain writers to attain membership; the most prominent of these are perhaps Molière, Marquis de La Rochefoucauld, Duc de Saint-Simon, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Stendhal, Émile Zola, and Marcel Proust. But not all omissions from the academy roster are attributable to literary criteria, for personal respectability and loyalty to the existing state have always been conditions of membership. The membership of the academy has traditionally included eminent Frenchmen outside the field of literature; some of its members come from France's senior clergy to mark the role of Roman Catholicism in French culture. Today the academy's membership includes women and people of other nationalities who write in French.


The work of the French Academy has chiefly consisted of the preparation and revision of a dictionary (1st ed. 1694, 9th ed. 1992–) and of a grammar. The very conservative attitude of these books toward orthography, new words, and grammatical development has led to much criticism. The academy, however, has never claimed to legislate but simply to record forms; legislation on orthography and grammar was made a function of the minister of public instruction during the Third Republic. The awarding of literary prizes has also been an important function of the French Academy, and in the 19th cent. its nonpartisanship encouraged the general recognition of the academy as a suitable trustee for the distribution of grants and prizes for courage and civic virtue.

References in periodicals archive ?
The recommendations in the French Academy of Sciences report focus largely on bibliometrics, arguing that:
Awarded by the French Academy of Jazz with the prize "Django Reinhart" of Best French Musician of the year, as well as the prize of Best French Album of the year for his album Windmills Chronicles in 2009, Guillaume continues to perform with the Paris-Jazz Big-Band, Pierre de Bethmann "Ilium" Septet, Herve Sellin Tentet and the quartet he formed with Peter Erskine, Nguyen Le and Michel Benita.
By definition, Burton cannot become another Clairefontaine, the hugely successful French academy that spawned the likes of Thierry Henry.
In 1868, Mary Cassatt's Mandolin Player was accepted to the Salon, but within a few years she would depart with the traditional styles of the French Academy.
Le Clezio won a prize from the French Academy for the work.
Talvacchia points out that Raphael created a kind of school for teaching young artists: it then became the model for the academies, especially the French Academy because "the basic tenets of his approach were eminently communicable through instruction" (189).
The annual salon, named after the Paris salon that showed Impressionists' work when the official French Academy wouldn't, accepts only work rejected by the Mayor's Art Show.
He arranged for the publication of a lavish edition of his Complete Works (which was in fact far from complete), and in 1954 he campaigned successfully for membership among the "Forty Immortals" when a seat came open in the French Academy.
The celebrated Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Comptes Rendues of the French Academy, and Rendicorti del Lincei are well-known examples.
Benedict addressed a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the French Academy of Sciences Jan.
Having been trained at the French Academy in Rome in the late 1760s, he had learned on one hand to admire Roman portraiture and on the other to make detailed studies of anatomy through dissection of corpses.