Courses available in French


Tout est dit, et l'on vient trop tard.

—La Bruyère

French 116A: Sixteenth-Century Literature — Poetry and Politics in Renaissance France


Clément Marot, L’Adolescence clémentine (1532) and other selected works ; Joachim du Bellay, Les Regrets (1558), Le Poète courtisan (1559) and excerpts of La Défense et illustration de la langue française ; Pierre de Ronsard, selected Odes (1550-1552) and Discours (1562-1563), Agrippa d’Aubigné, selections from Les Tragiques (1616 ; books 1, 2 and 5), Francois de Malherbe, selections from his Poésies.

Course Description:

While prose writers Michel de Montaigne and François Rabelais remain the two most frequently studied authors of 16th century France, French poetry, in the Renaissance, also developed in striking and enticing ways. Though the wars of religion at times weakened the authority of the French monarchs, they rarely ceased to maintain, in their immediate entourage, court poets, who were both eager to serve their powerful patrons, desirous to develop new poetic language, and enthusiastic about experimenting creatively with poetic forms.  Some of these poets’ efforts seem to intriguingly parallel, in the realm of language and poetry, the France monarchy’s effort to stabilize France’s political and religious turmoil. But much of the work of these poets also consisted in a systematic exploration of the power of their own voices, thereby leading to the development of new tools and tonalities for the crafting of lyrical poetry.

This class will carefully explore excerpts of the works of five major poets of 16th century France (Clément Marot, Joachim du Bellay, Pierre de Ronsard, Agrippa d’Aubigné and François de Malherbe), examining both how they relate to power in their writings and in what ways their positions as court poets allowed them to work towards the renewal of French poetry. Their poetry will be read in modernized editions and the focus will be on careful close-reading and contextualization, rather than on reading exhaustively. This class is suited to all lovers of poetry. But it will also interest students desirous to develop a contextualized understanding of French literary history. No prior knowledge of early modern French literature is necessary.


French 102 or equivalent.

Additional Information:

No prior knowledge of early modern French literature is necessary  This course satisfies one “Literature/Genre” or one “Elective” course requirement in the French major; satisfies one Historical Period requirement in French major.  Satisfies 1 course requirement in French minor.

Satisfies L & S breadth requirement in Arts and Literature or International Studies. Priority enrollment for declared French majors.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes