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FREN 675: L’empire et la race sur la scène française, XVII-XVIIIe siècles

Mondays 2:30-5:00pm, Dey 205, Prof. Ellen Welch

France’s metropolitan stages frequently depicted American, African, and Asian characters and settings in the 17th and 18th century. Once dismissed as merely decorative exoticism, these representations are now attracting researchers’ attention as important reflections on France’s involvement in colonialism and slavery in these centuries. In this seminar, we will study how plays, ballets, and operas from the early 1600s to the late 1700s invite spectators to contemplate questions surrounding the (il)legitimacy of conquest, the legal and moral frameworks for justifying or challenging systems of enslavement, constructions of race and ethnicity, and ideologies of supremacy. At the same time, with help from guest lectures as well as readings, we consider how scholars go about looking at historical works through new perspectives, and how theater-makers reckon with troubling histories through creativity and performance.

Authors studied include Corneille, Marivaux, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Olympe de Gouge, and others.

Primary materials and most class discussions will be in French, with accommodations for students from outside French & Francophone Studies. This seminar is designed primarily for graduate students. Highly motivated undergrads (such as students planning to write an honors thesis or considering graduate-level study) are also welcome in the course. Please feel free to email me with any questions or to see if the course is right for you:


Previously Offered:

Literature and Enlightenment (17th-18th centuries)

This rotating-topic seminar examines 17th- and 18th-century French literature in relation to the intellectual, social, and political movements of the Enlightenment. Taught in French.

The science of sound advanced rapidly from the mid-17th to the late 18th-century as experimenters measured the speed, volume, and quality of sound, physicians learned about the human ear, inventors created new instruments and sound-making machines, and musicians developed mathematically complex theories of harmony. These discoveries made a critical impact on philosophy and literature. In this seminar, we explore how major thinkers of the Enlightenment era drew inspiration from music, sound, and noise to theorize about sensibility and subjectivity, language and emotion, ethics and society. Readings include primary texts by Descartes, Lafayette, Madeleine de Scudéry, Claude Perrault, Diderot, and Rousseau, among others. This seminar is designed mainly for graduate students. Advanced undergraduates considering this course are encouraged to email Prof. Welch for more information. Graduate students from other programs (Music, History, English/CompLit, etc.) are also very welcome. The main language of discussion will be French with accommodations for students from other programs.

Instructional mode: remote-synchronous

Prerequisites: Instructor’s Permission