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Libertinism

What is libertinage? In a basic sense, the term refers to liberty from religious or moral constraints; initially denoting impiety or religious unorthodoxy, libertinage comes to be associated in 18th -century France with debauchery, disorder, and sexual licentiousness (and a literary genre that stages these themes). Cynical and unsentimental, the typical libertine hero is a shrewd seducer, violating social norms while preserving his reputation. Both within and beyond the titillating plots of its fictions, libertinage is deeply engaged with some of the most fundamental questions of this century of Enlightenment and revolution: about what it means to be free and human, about the boundaries between private and public, and about the role of authority and aristocracy in a changing society.

Through a study of 18th -century literature, art, and philosophy, this course will explore the politics and aesthetics of libertinage, with an emphasis on the interplay between sex, pleasure, knowledge, reason, and power. In what ways is libertinage a product (and producer) of the Enlightenment? Why did the libertine novel flourish as a genre at a moment when debates about human rights and universalist ideals dominated public discourse, and why is it usually thought to end with the Revolution? What is the relationship between sex, violence, and subjectivity, between perversion and politics? How does libertine literature represent the female subject (including the female libertine)? Authors studied include Crébillon fils, La Mettrie, Marivaux, Diderot, Laclos, Vivant Denon, Révéroni Saint-Cyr, and Sade. Course is conducted in French.

Prerequisites: FREN 300, and one of FREN 371, FREN 372, or FREN 373. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisites.

Previously Offered:
Spring 2015, Spring 2015, Spring 2015, Spring 2015, Spring 2015, Spring 2015, Spring 2015