FREN4213 - Form of Feeling

Value: 0.5 course units
Dr Katherine Ibbett
Teaching structure:
two assessed 3,000 word essays (100%).

Module Description:

This module will investigate the literature of ‘feeling’ in seventeenth-century France, looking at the ways in which the emotions and passions are defined, debated and delineated in a range of writing from throughout a century often celebrated for its refinement of rationality. We shall consider the profusion of literature on feeling in relation to various social changes in France and further afield — the question of religious toleration, the development of absolutism — and in relation to different understandings of both self and the community. We shall also consider the place of the body in the discourse on feeling, the relation of ‘feeling’ to various forms of knowledge, and especially the role that women play in elaborating these new expressions. The variety of seventeenth-century forms of feeling we shall encounter — pity, sorrow, pleasure, fear, love — will be explored through a variety of genres: novels, spiritual handbooks, painting, erotic dialogues, philosophy and tragedy. 

We shall also think about how these readings speak to a wide range of recent theoretical concerns, looking at approaches to the field such as historical work on expressions of feeling, work in political theory on the passions, theories of affect, psychoanalytic approaches, and critical perspectives on the self and the subject.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

  • René Descartes, Les passions de l’âme.
  • François de Sales, Introduction à la vie dévote (Seuil).
  • Lafayette, La Princesse de Montpensier, suivi de la Comtesse de Tende (text supplied online).
  • Madeleine de Scudéry, Clélie (Folio).

Supplementary readings will be available online.