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FR342 Eros and Reason: the Rise of the Libertine

Module Code: FR342
Module Name: Eros and Reason: the Rise of the Libertine
Module Coordinator: Professor Ingrid De Smet
Term 1 Time: TBC
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

This module explores the emergence of the rebellious and subversive individual and of the pursuit of personal liberty (in physical, sexual and intellectual terms) in the Ancien Régime France of Louis XIII and Louis XIV.

We will investigate how, as a reaction to an increasingly centralized and directive society regulated by Church and Court, the libertins associated themselves with taverns, brothels, and the theatre, but also with (often secret) academies and salons such as that of the courtesan Ninon de Lenclos. We will also enquire after the cost and strategies of dissidence: what was the nature of the crimes that turned the poet Théophile de Viau and the burlesque writer and composer Charles Coypeau d’Assoucy (one-time lover of Cyrano de Bergerac) into two of the seventeenth century’s most famous prisoners? To what extent did travel provide, either literally or metaphorically, a means to evade censorship and to explore dangerous or new-fangled ideas? And how did texts such as Charles Sorel’s Francion (France’s answer to Don Quixote) and Molière’s Dom Juan test the limits of society’s toleration of non-conformist and irreverent behaviour?

By studying a mixture of mainstream and more marginal authors, we will engage in a critical debate that is now particularly buoyant and chart the tensions between the libertins’ quest for hedonist (erotic but also often gastronomic) pleasures, on the one hand, and the rationalized vindication of moral and intellectual freedom, on the other.

Assessment Method:

These final-year modules will be examined EITHER by a combination of assessed work (50%) and formal examination (50%) OR solely by assessment (100%).