French 245A: FRENCH SOCIETY AND THE OLD REGIME (1600-1800)

Instructor: Déborah Blocker

This course fulfills the elective requirement for the DE in REMS.

Th 10-1, 4226 Dwinelle, 4 units, CCN 32547

This seminar introduces students to the historiography of early modern French society (1600-1800), by comparing modern historiographical writings on the topic to a variety of literary texts ­ plays, novels, mémoires and social satire ­ from the 17th and 18th centuries, which depict early modern French society or reflect on particular social problems. It asks not only what was French society in the Old Régime, but also how did the very notion of an “Old Régime” society come into existence and in what ways is this historiographical construct still important for us today? To answer these questions, the seminar will focus on how modern historiography works to reconstruct France’s forgone social realities and what role literary productions might have played in the process. Intersections between historiography and fiction will be stressed, as well as the fact that early modern literary representations of social issues have often shaped modern historians’ perceptions of them. The seminar will pay particular attention to how literature’s growing importance in early modern French society has impacted the way historians, to this day, continue to use such literary productions to historicize pre-Revolutionary France. Historical readings are taken from the French tradition of social history, as it developed out of and around the Annales school (Pierre Goubert, Daniel Roche, Roger Chartier, Robert Descimon, etc.) as well as from the works of their Anglo-Saxon counterparts (William Beik, Nathalie Zemon Davis, Jonathan Dewald, Peter Sahlins, etc). Literary readings include excerpts from a wide variety of early modern French works. Molière’s Georges Dandin, La Fayette’s Princesse de Clèves, Marivaux’ Le Paysan Parvenu and Diderot’s La Religieuse are read in full, along with some relevant literary and historical criticism. A number of theoretical and methodological readings are also discussed (Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Rancière, Christian Jouhaud et alt., etc).

No prior knowledge of early modern French society or literature is needed. This course is taught entirely in English, with readings available both in English and in French.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes