French and Italian | Ideas and Culture in Seventeenth-Century France
F424 | 25786 | Wilkin, Rebecca

Topic: Blood ties: mothers and their progeny in seventeenth-century

Religious, political and scientific developments in early modern
France drew attention to the figure of the mother. Counter-
Reformation predicators stressed the mother’s crucial role as the
first teacher of the faith; two mothers of child kings ruled France
even though Salic law prohibited women from the throne; the rise of
mechanism and the invention of the microscope led anatomists to
redefine the mother’s role in generation. We will consider three
questions: 1) What were mothers supposed to do and be like? 2) What
was the mother’s legacy to her offspring? 3) What did mothers have
to say about mothering? Texts to be studied include Alexandre
Hardy’s Les liens du sang, Nicolas Malebranche’s Recherche
de la vérité, Racine’s Phèdre, Louise Bourgeois’s
Conseils à sa fille, Madame de Sévigné’s correspondence, and
Madame de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves, as well as a
variety of excerpts from contemporary moral, medical, and legal
discourse. Students will be graded on daily participation, two
papers, and a final exam. The class will be conducted in French.