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FRENCH 376 A: Culture, Politics, And Society In France From The Religious Wars To Revolutions

Meeting Time: 
TTh 3:30pm - 5:20pm
GWN 201
Geoffrey Turnovsky

Syllabus Description:

Tues, Thurs 3:30-5:20 -- Gowen 201
Geoffrey Turnovsky (
PDL C-255
Office hours: Mondays 10:30-12:30 and by appointment


Description. This course proposes a historical exploration of French culture and literature from the Religious Wars to the Revolution of 1789 and beyond. We will focus on the growth of an intellectual and artistic culture in the context of the profound political and social changes that defined the emergence of France as a modern nation in this period. We’ll emphasize the centralization of the State and the evolutions of the hierarchical Old Regime social structure, exploring the opportunities and constraints that these parallel developments presented to writers, whose works and careers can be studied as products of and reactions to the new political and social realities of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Course Goals. 1) to understand key political and social changes of France from the 16th to the late 18th centuries; 2) to understand, against the backdrop of this history, the development of intellectual culture in its major articulations from Humanism through Classicism and the Enlightenment; 3) to reflect more broadly upon the notion of culture and its relation to events and to media; 4) to develop analytical, reasoning, and writing skills.

Texts. The following texts are available at the University Book Store.

     Natalie Zenon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Harvard)

     William Beik, ed., Louis XIV and Absolutism. A Brief Study with Documents (Bedford)

     Colin Jones, The Great Nation (Penguin)

     Other readings available at the assignments below.


Work, Expectations, and Grades:

4.0 GRADE SCALE (conversion based on your final grade as indicated in Canvas, up to 2 decimal points).

Written work3 tests, accounting for 45% of your final grade. 

          Scheduled for 1/26 (15%), 2/16 (15%), and 3/9 (15%)

3 papers – 2 short papers (1-3 pages) and a longer paper (5 pages), accounting for 40% of final grade. 

          Due 1/17 (10%), 2/9 (10%), and 3/13 (20% including topic and outline)

Class work:     will account for 15% of your final grade. This will include:

          * participation in group discussions (please bring readings to class)

          * in-class writing assignments (please also bring pen and paper to class)

          * short exercises and essays to complete at home

          * quizzes

Our course has been assigned a teaching associate.

                         Florentina Dedu-Constantin


                        Office: PDL C-236

                        Office hours: Tues, Thurs 2:30-3:30

In addition to grading, Florentina will be available to discuss paper ideas and will run workshops and reviews sessions throughout the quarter.


  1. Academic honesty and use of sources. Students in French 376, like all UW students, are expected to maintain “the highest standards of academic conduct,” and any misconduct will be taken very seriously. This includes cheating and plagiarism. Please consult the statement on “Student Academic Responsibility” prepared by the Committee on Academic Conduct in the College of Arts and Sciences:
  1. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the office of Disability Services which coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities:




Do the readings for the session in which they are assigned. There will be quizzes.

Jan 3 – Introduction: Stability and Change

            Jones, from Cambridge Illustrated History of France, 127-35

            Beik, “Introduction: France and its Population,” 1-14

            Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre, 1-26


Jan 5 – Religion and Religious Wars

            Beik, “Ecclesiastical Power and Religious Faith,” 164-200

           Jones, from Cambridge Illustrated History of France, 135-43

            Davis, Martin Guerre, 26-61


            Archive to explore:

            (browse under the appropriate monarch)


Jan 10 – Old Regime Society

          Loyseau, “A Treatise on Orders,” 13-15 (“Foreward”), 19-23 (chs. III and IV), 27-31 (ch. VIII)

          Excerpt from Corneille, Le Cid, act 1

          Beik, “The Monarchy and the New Nobility,” 134-161

          Collins, The State in Early Modern France, 38-53


Jan 12 – Selfhood and Identity in the Age of Humanism, Discovery, and Communications Revolution

            Montaigne, “To the Reader” and “On the Cannibals,” 228-241

            Aldus Manutius, “The Life of a Scholar-Printer,” 396-401

            Davis, Martin Guerre, 63-125



(French version of “Au lecteur”; image of page with Montaigne’s corrections:


Visit of Deb Raftus, Romance Languages Librarian

Writing Workshop: Friday, Jan 13


Jan 17 – Early Modern Politics I – Defining Tensions

          Richelieu, Political Testament, 9-12 and 20-33 (Ch. IV is Richelieu’s portrait of Louis XIII. Worth reading if you plan to write your paper on kingship, but not required for class).

          Collins, 36-38; 53-70


            FIRST PAPER DUE – uploaded to Canvas by class: 1-2 pages


Jan 19 – Early Modern Politics II – The Fronde

            FromLouis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents:

                 “Mme de Motteville’s Account of the Paris Disturbances,” 19-29

                “A Mazarinade Against the Queen and the Cardinal,” 29-35

             Optional: selected Mazarinades in French (available on Canvas site)

             Bercé, The Birth of Absolutism, 157-82


Jan 24 – Early Modern Politics III –“Absolutism”

            From Beik, Louis XIV and Absolutism(I suggest you read in this order):

            Louis XIV, “The King’s Own Words” (from his Mémoires), 204-215

            Bossuet “Divine Right Monarchy” 166-173

            Colbert, “Managing France,” 82-96

            Louis XIV, Mémoires, 101-104

         Saint-Simon, The Age of Magnificence, “Portrait of the King,” 137-150 (optional, if you want to write a paper on monarchy: “The King’s Day,” 160-166)


Review Session: Wed, Jan 25


Jan 26 – TEST 1


Jan 31 – Women’s Lives in the Early Modern Era: Marriage, Religion, and Work

            Mademoiselle de Montpensier, letters to Mme de Motteville, 27-61

            Sharon Kettering, from French Society: 1589-1715, “Women and Men,” 20-33


Feb 2 – Crises of Conscience I – Religious Controversy

            Bayle, from Historical and Critical Dictionary, “Manicheans,” 349-354 (skip “The Third Clarification”); from Diverse Thoughts on the Comet, “On the Authority of Tradition,” 22, and “What the True Case is of the Authority of an Opinion,” 65-66

           Beik, from Louis XIV and Absolutism, “Dealing with the Gallican Church,” “Dealing with the Jansenists” and     “Dealing with the Huguenots,” 173-197

           Collins, The State, 121-128

           Jones, The Great Nation, 18-23


Sources: ARTFL database of French texts


 Writing Workshop: Friday, Feb 3


Feb 7 – Crises of Conscience II – War and Poverty in an Time of Climate Change

            Fénelon, letter to Louis XIV

            Collins,The State, 152-163 and 180-190

            Jones, The Great Nation, 23-28


 SECOND PAPER DUE – uploaded to Canvas: 2-3 pages


Feb 9 – Regency, Bubbles, and Colonial Adventures

            Montesquieu, from Persian Letters, letters 24, 29, 30, 35, 36, 37, 92, 140, 142

            Jones,The Great Nation, 43-73


Feb 14 – A New Society

            Voltaire, selections from Philosophical Letters; and “Le mondain”

            Collins,The State, 239-254

            Jones,The Great Nation, 159-170

            Kwass, “Big Hair: A Wig History of Consumption in 18th-Century France,” 631-659


Review Session: Wed, Feb 15


Feb 16 – TEST 2


Feb 21 – Enlightenment, War and Attempted Regicide

            Selected articles from the Encyclopediaof Diderot and d’Alembert


            Darnton,The Business of Enlightenment, 6-17

            Lyons, “Censorship and the Reading Public in Pre-Revolutionary France,” 105-118

            Jones,The Great Nation, 171-178and 226-245


Feb 23 – Inventing and Contesting the “Public Sphere”

            Voltaire,Treatise on Tolerance, 3-13

            Jones, The Great Nation, 270-271

            Darnton, “An Early Information Society,” 1-35

            Chartier, “The Public Sphere and Public Opinion,” from Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, 20-23


PAPER TOPIC DUE (posted to Canvas)


Writing Workshop: Friday, Feb 24


Feb 28 – Self and Society in the Age of Enlightenment

           Voltaire, “Poste” from Dictionnaire philosophique

           Dena Goodman, “Epistolary Property: Michel de Servan and the Plight of Letters on the Eve of the French Revolution,” (excerpts) 339-359

           Lynn Hunt, “Torrents of Emotion: Reading Novels and Imagining Equality,” from Inventing Human Rights, 35-69


March 2 – Origins of the Revolution

            de Toqueville, from The Old Regime and the French Revolution

            Maza, “The Diamond Necklace Affair Revisited (1785-86): The Case of the Missing Queen,” 73-94

            Chartier, “Do Books Make Revolutions,” from Cultural Origins, 67-91


In-class work on papers – bring materials: outlines, notes, bibliographies, etc.

Post to Canvas.


March 7 – Catch-up and review session for Test 3: bring questions!


March 9 – TEST 3


THIRD PAPER DUE, uplodaded to Canvas; Monday, March 13 – 5 pages


*** Syllabus subject to change, depending on interests and discussions


FREN376 WI2017 Flyer.jpg

Catalog Description: 
Studies the development of intellectual, literary, and artistic cultures in the context of the profound political and social evolutions of the Renaissance through the early nineteenth century in France. Taught in English.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 4, 2017 - 10:20pm