Courses available in French




French 180B: French Civilization — Louis XIV, Versailles, and the Culture of Absolutism


Molière, Le Tartuffe

Molière, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme

Racine, Bajazet

Lafayette, La Princesse de Clèves

Fontenelle, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes


Course Description:

In 1661, following the death of his prime minister Mazarin, the young Louis XIV decided not to appoint a successor; instead, he would exercise personally what he called le métier de roi.  Louis’s subsequent reign, which comprised an unprecedented reorganization of state institutions, has since been seen as both an end and a beginning. An end, because these years brought to its apogee a type of monarchical power, now known as “absolutism,” that was already in steep decline even before the king’s death in 1715; a beginning, because on another level the political and cultural world under Louis XIV evolved in a decidedly modern direction.  This class will examine the cultural ferment of this time, a ferment that took place both with and against absolutism.  We’ll study the royal culture of spectacle—notably the chateau and gardens of Versailles—and read texts both by people who lived at court and by those who could only speculate about what went on there.  We’ll spend time with the two great playwrights whose careers were profoundly bound up in Louis XIV’s patronage, Racine and Molière.  And we will look at critiques of courtly spectacle and the emergence of a new, post-absolutist conception of the world that looks forward to the Enlightenment’s private pleasures.  Books on order will be supplemented by primary and secondary resources on bCourses, as well as a number of films.


French 102 or consent of instructor.

Additional Information:

Satisfies 1 “Culture” or 1 “Elective” requirement in the French major.  Satisfies 1 Historical Period requirement in French major.  Satisfies College of Letters and Science breadth in Arts and Literature or in  Social and Behavioral Sciences.  Priority enrollment for declared French majors.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes