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FREN2104 - The Classical Age: 17th Century Literature

Value: 0.5 course units
Dr Katherine Ibbett
Teaching structure: Time is divided between theatre in the first half of term and prose fiction in the second.
Assessment: one unseen two-hour written examination (100%).

Module Description:

In the first part of the module, we will look at ways in which the classical five-act play, that most austere of literary forms, opened dizzying perspectives onto a world beset by social upheaval. How did the theatre explore questions of desire, knowledge, and government? What was so troubling and so exciting about the newness of this form of theatre, and how did writers seek to define themselves in relation to it?

In the second part of the module we will take on the new social formations of court culture under Louis XIV. We will think in particular about the slipperiness of identity and the self, reading one text in which men become women and one where a woman becomes a cat: what explains this fantasy of living differently, of taking on a different gender or another form, and how do various forms of texts sustain that fantasy? And we’ll ask how it might be dangerous to make assumptions about the feelings of other people: is it ever possible to know another self, or, most problematically, even to know what we ourselves want?

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

Corneille, Le Cid (in any edition with numbered lines).

  • Racine, Andromaque and Bérénice (in any edition with numbered lines).
  • Molière, L’Ecole des femmes (in any edition with numbered lines).
  • Madame d’Aulnoy, ‘La chatte blanche’ (provided online).
  • François-Timoléon de Choisy et al., Histoire de la Marquise-Marquis de Banneville (MLA Texts, ISBN 9780873529310).
  • Madame de Lafayette, La Princesse de Clèves (Folio ISBN 9782070414437). Please ensure you have this Folio edition.