Courses available in French


Mon ultime prière: Ô mon corps, fais de moi toujours un homme qui interroge!

— Fanon

French 117B : Seventeenth-Century Literature — The Art of Passion — Phèdre, Racine, and French Classical Tragedy (“W”)


Corneille, Horace; Racine, Phèdre; Andromaque; Britannicus; Bérénice

Course Description:

Despite its reputation for rationality and rigid codification, seventeenth-century tragedy might be more accurately described as hyperemotional—a device not only for regulating but also propagating what people then called “passions.” For no playwright is this more true than for Racine, known at the time for having a knack for making his audience dissolve in pools of tears.  This course proposes an examination of Racine’s theater of emotion through a consideration of four of his best-known works, especially Phèdre, to which we will return periodically throughout the semester.  Students can expect to come away, first, with deep knowledge of this enduringly famous play on a number of levels:  we’ll spend a lot of time making sure we understand its language; we’ll look at the Greek and Roman texts Racine was in dialogue with; and we will sample the huge tradition of commentary it spawned.  We’ll also seek to understand how Phèdre fits in with the playwright’s broader oeuvre, with the trajectory of his career, with other Classical tragedies (notably those of Corneille), and with tragedies of other times and places.   This course is designated as “W” (writing intensive) in the French major.


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.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes