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Le soleil est rare et le bonheur aussi l’amour s’égare au long de la vie.

— Gainsbourg

French 117A: Seventeenth-Century Literature — Inventing Modern Comedy — Molière and his Time (“W”)

Readings: 

Plays: Les Précieuses ridicules (1659), excerpts from La Critique de l’Ecole des Femmes and L’Impromptu de
Versailles (1663), Le Misanthrope (1666), L’Avare (1668), George Dandin (1668), Le Tartuffe (1669), Le Bourgeois
Gentilhomme (1670), Les Fourberies de Scapin (1671) and Le Malade Imaginaire (1673).

Films: Ariane Mnouchkine, Molière (1978) and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, staged by Vincent Dumestre and Le Poème Harmonique (2008).

Course Description:

Molière was France’s most prominent comical actor, playwright and stage director during the Classical Age and his plays remain central to the French imaginary to this day. This class provides an introduction to Molière’s works and times. We study a selection of his plays, ranging from his Italianate farces and the comédies-ballets (or musicals) he produced for the Court, to the high-flying social critiques he wrote and staged for his Parisian audiences. We also explore Molière’s role in the social and political institution of the theater at a time when playwriting and acting were first codified and legitimized as social practices. We give particular attention, in this respect, to Molière’s relationship to the Sun King, Louis XIV, and to the ways in which this patronage impacted his theater. We also enquire into the history of early modern performance, studying both how Molière’s texts were pronounced and acted out, and how they might have been staged, in his time. Modern filmic reconstitutions, from Ariane Mnouchkine to Vincent Dumestre, serve as a point of departure for this last investigation. Finally, we examine the canonization of Molière’s oeuvre, by studying examples of the publication of his works in modern times, as well as a selection of contemporary stagings, taken from the website of the French INA (Institut National de l’Audiovisuel).

Prerequisites: 

French 102 or equivalent.

Additional information: 

This course satisfies 1 French Major course requirement in the “Literature” (112-120) category or 1 French Major course requirement in the Elective category. This course also satisfies 1 Historical Period Requirement in the French major. Priority enrollment for declared French majors.  Satisfies College of Letters and Science breadth in Arts and Literature.

This course is designated as “W” (writing intensive) in the French major course sequence.  There will be specific emphasis on grammar and composition skills.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes