As far as literature in French is concerned, only two names illustrate the spiritual and literary life in the Middle Ages: that of the chronicler Hugues de Pierre in the fifteenth century and of the knight and poet Othon de Granson (1340-ca.1397), of which G. Chaucer translated three ballads. The French-speaking literature was born in reality only with the reform, requirements for controversy, political and administrative, and remains long monopoly of theologians and jurists, first in order of time Pierre Viret (1511-1571) and Calvin (1509-1564), French of origin and translator of his own Institutio of the Christian life which constitutes a model of French classical prose.
According to Estatelearning, the theocratic organization of the government of the city of Geneva by Calvin and the severe principles of his doctrine inform, suffocating it, the literary life of the region, which can only count on the poet Théodore de Bèze (1519-1605), Calvin’s successor, and on the classic Blaise Hory (1504-1538), more often on jurists and philosophers, including JJ Burlamaqui (1694-1748) or JP de Crousaz (1663-1750). In the eighteenth century Geneva was the birthplace of J.-J. Rousseau (1712-1778), whose work belongs to French literature but also constitutes a starting point in the search for the main themes of French literature: love for nature, religious sentiment, a taste for introspection, civic sense.
Alongside Alpine literature, illustrated above all by HB de Saussure (1740-1799), a cultural movement developed in Lausanne around Ph. Sirice Bridel (1757-1845) and Madame de Charrière (1740-1805), author of novels, short stories and letters, and in Neuchâtel around H.-D. de Chaillet (1751-1823) who open the horizons of Rome towards Italian and French culture, waiting for the Revolution and Madame de Staël (1766-1817) make the necessary mediation between the more properly Swiss values and European culture. Coppet’s group, gathered around Madame de Staël, includes Ch. Victor de Bonstetten (1745-1832) and Ch.-L. Sismondi (1773-1842), a scholar of Southern European history and literature, and B. Constant (1767-1830), of Lausanne origin but French by adoption. In the poetic panorama of the nineteenth century Juste Olivier (1807-1876) is the initiator of a regional poem of an alpine and religious character, while a premature death truncates the promising romantic debut of F. Monneron (1813-1837), by J.- THE. Galloix (1807-1828) and E. Eggis (1830-1867). The symbolism it is represented by L. Duchosal (1862-1901) and Parnassianism by E. Tavan (1842-1919). This scarcity of names clearly indicates that French-speaking Switzerland remained almost extraneous to the tumultuous debate in neighboring France throughout the century. It is easier to identify some original character in the prose, whether it is the sketches of R. Toepffer (1799-1846) or Ph. Monnier (1864-1911), or the alpine tales of the historian and moralist E. Rambert (1830- 1886) or the country novels by U. Olivier (1810-1888). But it is precisely the Calvinist moral rigor, responsible from the very beginning for so much lack of imagination, which makes possible the disconcerting and implacable monument of introspection, partly still unpublished, which is the Journal intime by H.-F. Amiel (1821-1881), whose influence extends beyond the century.
For other writers, the term déracinés is used to indicate their choice of France or cosmopolitanism, such as V. Cherbuliez(1829-1899) and E. Rod (1857-1910). Even the criticism evolves from the moralism, albeit liberal, of an A. Vinet (1797-1847) towards the cosmopolitanism of Marc Monnier (1829-1885), scholar of comparative literatures, towards the fervor of renewal, in a universalistic sense, of F Gonzague de Reynold (1880-1970), founder of the journal and the Latin Voile movement(1904), and finally towards the need to free art from the bottlenecks of Helvetism and folklore adopted by the group of Cahiers vaudois (1914-18), including E. Gilliard (1875-1969), P. Budry (1883-1948), the poets H. Spiess (1876-1940), P.-L. Matthey (1893-1970), F. Chavannes (1868-1936). Above all, C.-F. Ramuz (1878-1947) who, thanks to a very personal linguistic revolution, overcomes the dichotomy between his native world and belonging to French literature. CF Landry (1909-1973) and M. Zermatten (b. 1910) operate on his example. A prominent place also occupy, in recent fiction, R. de Traz (1884-1951), B. Vallotton (1877-1962), L. Savary (1895-1968), J. MerCanton (1910-1996), who is also an essayist, G. de Pourtalès (1881-1941), L. Bopp (1896-1977), the revelator of Amiel, French by adoption Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), some novelists such as C. Francillon (1899-1976) and M. de Saint-Hélier (1895-1955). The authors of the nouveau roman are assimilated by R. Pinget (1919-1997), of Genevan origin, while original features reveal Y. Velan (b. 1925) and J. Chessex (b. 1934), novelist and essayist. The modern novel includes writers such as JP Monnier (1921-1997) and Y. Z’Graggen (b.1920), A. Kristof (b. 1935), born in Hungary, a country she left in 1956 to reach Switzerland where she has lived ever since; Trilogy of the city of K. and Yesterday are his most famous novels. Among the contemporary lyricists we mention G. Roud (1897-1976), G. Trolliet (1907-1980), Ph. Jaccottet (b. 1925), P. Patocchi (1911-1968). The theater counts on the names of René Morax(1873-1963), creator of the Jorat shows, by JP Zimmermann (1889-1952), by A. Gehri (1895-1972). In the field of non-fiction, perhaps the richest of interest in French literature, we remember A. Béguin (1901-1957), M. Raymond (1897-1981), Denis de Rougemont (1906-1985) and J. Starobinski (b. 1920). Finally, the work of the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), founder of structural linguistics, was fundamental.