MEMS 377 - Literature, History, and Culture of Early Modern France
Section: 001 Ambition, Merit, Fortune: Upward Mobility Stories in French Literature
Term: WN 2010
Subject: Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS)
Department: LSA History
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of department.
Enforced Prerequisites:
Two courses in FRENCH numbered FRENCH 250-299; or FRENCH 235 and two RCLANG 320; or FRENCH 235, one course in FRENCH numbered FRENCH 250-299 and one RCLANG 320.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

Upward mobility: we all want it, but how do we get it? This course offers hints from French literature, probing texts by writers who were also keen social observers. As we consider their thoughts on the nature of those who get ahead, we will address a range of questions. How is social climbing shown to shape subjectivity — the kind of person one is, and the relationship one has with oneself? What is shown to characterize (and drive) different kinds of social success — entry into the nobility? Success at court? Artistic glory? Pure material wealth? In another vein, how does gender affect upward mobility — what does it look like for women to move up in society, and how do they shape networks of influence? Lastly, as one scholar has recently asked, is upward mobility compatible with the common good? Does literature suggest that the hero’s success is beneficial to everyone, or does one person’s rise imply the exploitation and fall of others?

Comparing Old Regime works (16th and 17th centuries) with several post-Revolutionary ones, our readings will trace persistent doubts in French literature about the compatibility of moral virtue and social ascent, noting how ambition begins to look different when France loses faith in the goodness of its ruling class.

Examining literary genres ranging from fairy tales and novels to comic theater and dialogue, as well as several films, we will explore the personal and political consequences associated with moving up in the world.

MEMS 377 - Literature, History, and Culture of Early Modern France
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
MWF 1:00PM - 2:00PM
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