How to energize teaching? Ideas and literary “musts,” by Sylvie Romanowski

On-line dialogues can catalyze creative thinking in and out of the classroom.  This spring, a distinguished colleague posted a rather melancholy message on the SECFS list-serve for professors of 18th-c French studies, asking : “What can one possibly do to enliven a seminar on 18th-c literature?”  The response to his query–which resonated with existential angst–was heartening.  Colleagues from around the world proffered ideas on books that students like, angles of approach to use, and especially a powerful message of enthusiasm and encouragement for our field.  The 18th-century community is alive and well, and students are loving it!  Read on for twelve ideas of literary “musts,” compiled by Prof. Sylvie Romanowski.

Grecque moderne

A.  Patrick Coleman (UCLA)

My undergrads have enjoyed Prévost, Histoire d’une Grecque moderne. You might consider Prévost, La Jeunesse du commandeur, too – it’s quite a wild story, and should be better known.

B.  Julia Douthwaite (University of Notre Dame)

Here is a course description for an upper-level seminar I’m teaching in Fall 2009:  “What is modernity?  Although their methods and vocabulary seem to push opposing agendas, one thing that philosophers, economists, historians, political scientists and literary scholars all have in common is a focus on the period 1750-1830 as the pivotal turning point in the development of a “modern” mindset.  Through study of a series of literary works (more or less well-known), this seminar will allow the advanced student in French the opportunity to delve into the analysis of modernity as seen through multiple critical lenses, and to understand how politics, science, art, philosophy, class, race relations, and the news all found their way into the French novel in its development from ancien régime to modernity.”

Les textes et les thèmes

1. La création de l’homme nouveau: Rousseau, Emile, ou de l’éducation (1762)

2. Est-il maître? Est-il serviteur?  Un regard ironisant sur la hiérarchie sociale: Diderot, Jacques le fataliste et son maître (rédigé 1760-76; pub. 1796)

3. La politisation de la littérature sous la Révolution française:  Voltaire, Le Monde comme il va, ou Vision de Babouc (1748), et Anon., Le Fils de Babouc (1790)

4.  La hantise des ci-devant: Le gothique et l’émigration:  Réveroni Saint-Cyr, Pauliska ou la perversité moderne:  Mémoires récents d’une Polonaise (1798)Bug-Jargal

5.  La métropole e(s)t la colonie:  Le discours du contrôle et de l’insurrection

a. Picquenard, Adonis ou le bon nègre (1798)

b. Hugo, Bug-jargal (1826)

6.  Le roman de l’homme qui fut né trop tard:  Stendhal, Le Rouge et le noir (1830)

C.  Julie Hayes (U Mass, Amherst)

I’ve done an advanced undergraduate course on Enlightement and Cultural Otherness that worked fairly well. We read:

Montaigne, “Des Cannibales” (1580)

Lettres édifiantes et curieuses des Jésuites en Chine, extraits (1702-1776)

Baron de Lahontan, Dialogues avec un sauvage d‚Amérique, extraits (1703)

Lettresd'unePeruvienneMontesquieu, Les Lettres persanes (1721)

Graffigny, Les Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747)

Voltaire, Micromégas (1752)

Diderot et d’Alembert, L’Encyclopédie, extraits (1751-1772)

D’Alembert, “Observations sur l’art de traduire” (1763)

Delille, “Discours préliminaire” des Géorgiques de Virgile (1770)

Raynal, Histoire des deux Indes, extrait (1776)

Diderot, Le Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville (1777)

Julie de LespinasseBernardin de Saint-Pierre, Voyage à l’île de France, “Lettre 12″ (1773)

Condorcet, Réflexions sur l’esclavage des nègres, extraits (1781)

Brissot de Warville, “Adresse à l’Assemblée Nationale” (1790)

Duras, Ourika (1823)

D. Marcel Henaff (UCSD)

Lettres de Julie de Lespinasse, une merveille …

E.  Nanette Le Coat (Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas)

Rousseau, La Nouvelle Héloïse engages students, especially in context. I’ve taught Rousseau in a variety ofRousseau contexts: the Enlightenment and its Critics (then and now), the literature of the French Revolution and the family in Eighteenth-century France. (This latter course was inspired by conversations with Ourida Mostefai, Pierre Saint-Amand, and Nadine Berenguier.)

Manon LescautF. Fiona McIntosh (Lille 3 Université Charles de Gaulle)

Potocki,  Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse

Prévost, Manon Lescaut

Excerpts of Faublas were interesting especially as a counterpoint to Les Liaisons dangereuses. At the limit of the 18th c., my women students liked Delphine

GJohn O’Neal (Hamilton College)

VoltaireTraiteToleranceVoltaire’s Traité sur la tolérance. It seems to have taken on whole new meaning in view of recent world events.

In my course “Madness and Genius in the French Enlightenment,” the reading list included:

Encyclopédie, articles “Folie,”  “Génie,” and “Sensibilité”

Voltaire, Lettres philosophiques (the articles on Locke, Descartes and Newton, and academies)

Diderot, La Religieuse and Le Rêve de d’Alembert

Rousseau, Dialogues (a very difficult text but surprisingly rewarding, esp. on his view of public opinion and the formation of judgments) and Rêveries; and, a very new text for students, Pinel’s L’Aliénation mentale ou la manie.

H. Sylvie Romanowski (Northwestern University)

In my course on women writers of the ancien régime we read mostly 18th c. writers, but with some important texts of previous centuries:

Marguerite de Navarre, Heptaméron, 1558 (contes choisis, photocopies)

Lafayette, Madame de, La Princesse de Clèves, 1678 (GF)

D’Aulnoy, Madame, Contes de fées (contes choisis, photocopies)

Graffigny, Madame de, Lettres d’une Péruvienne, 1747 (MLA)

Riccoboni, Madame, Histoire d’Ernestine, 1765 (MLA)ourika-french4c

Charrière, Madame de, Lettres de Mistress Henley (MLA)

Gouges, Olympe de, Zamore et Mirza ou l’Esclavage des Noirs, 1792

— , Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne, 1791

Duras, Claire de, Ourika, 1830 (MLA)

I.  Elena Russo (Johns Hopkins University)

DiderotSupplementDiderot,  Supplément au voyage de Bougainville, which may be paired with:

Diderot’s Lettre à sa fille (Letter of Diderot to Mme de Vandeul September 13, 1772)

Diderot, La Religieuse

Crébillon,  Le Sopha – It may be a little difficult for undergraduates. And you might get in trouble for having to explain what really goes on under that elegantly euphemistic language.

All of Marivaux’s theatre, with a pitch for two little-read plays: La Réunion des amours and Le
Triomphe de Plutus
, which may be paired with Le
Sage’s Turcaret and/or Le Paysan parvenu (selections).

Fougeret de Monbron, Margot la ravaudeuse

Sade, Justine – For a Sadean scholar, the short version (Les Infortunes de la vertu) is perfect and I taught it many times. It’s a perfectly perverse parody of the novel and it’s sort of a libertine, female version of Job.

J. Ginny Swain (Professor Emerita of French & Italian, Dartmouth College)Vigee-Lebrun

If you want to laugh, there’s always Le Voyage merveilleux du Prince Fanfaredin dans la Romancie – not a standard text, to be sure, but a really amusing way of approaching critical debates about the novel.

Madame de Lambert’s Nouvelles Réflexions sur les Femmes, which pairs very nicely in a survey course with Molière’s Misanthrope and some of Rousseau’s musings on it. And Lambert also pairs well with Manon, if you want to go there.

K. Servanne Woodward (University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario)

affiche_Liaisons_dangereuses_1959_1Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Paul et Virginie

Prévost, Manon Lescaut

Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses

These can be presented with the physiocrats (political economy history/ideology), slavery and Le Code noir (for historical research), the abolitionists, the difference between a biographical journal and novelistic writing, the fun of preromanticism and the appreciation for nature.

L. Paul Young (Georgetown University)

Denon, Point de Lendemain

La petite maison – these two texts are in a great Folio edition together. Bastide is often under appreciated, and some of his other stories are also available in paperback editions.VoltaireIngenu

Graffigny, Lettres d’une Péruvienne

Voltaire, L’Ingénu (much!) better than Candide.

Qu’est-ce qu’une femme, edited by Elizabeth Badinter, comprised of three interesting 18th-century texts, including one by Diderot.

Sade,  Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond, appreciated by undergraduates

Compiled June 2009, by Sylvie Romanowski, Northwestern University

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