French and Italian | Studies in Eighteenth-Century French Literature
F635 | 27258 | Ansart, Guillaume


This seminar will explore representations of non-European cultures
in 18th-century French literature. Why is the reflection on cultural
difference, cultural “otherness”, so central to the Enlightenment
project? Is the figure of the cultural “other” a mere propaganda
tool for 18th-century French writers, or is their interest in such a
figure a sign of genuine perception of different cultures and their
specificity? How did Enlightenment thinkers see the relationship
between the diversity of peoples and cultures on one hand, and the
unity or universality of human nature on the other? Such questions
as these will be raised during the course of the semester. Readings
will focus mainly on the Enlightenment proper, but we will begin the
course with texts from the 16th and 17th centuries and end with
works from the 19th and 20th centuries. A research paper, an oral
presentation, and a final exam will be required.

Tentative Reading List:

Montaigne: “Des cannibales” & “Des coches”

Mme de La Fayette:  Zaïde

Montesquieu:  Lettres persanes

Prévost:  Histoire d’une Grecque moderne

Mme de Grafigny:  Lettres d’une Péruvienne

Voltaire:  L’ingénu

Lahontan:  Dialoques curieux

Diderot:  Supplément au voyage de Bougainville

Rousseau:  Discours sur les sciences et les arts, Discours
sur l’origine de l’inégalité, and Essai sur l’origine des
langues

Chateaubriand:  Atala

Mme de Duras:  Ourika

Lévi-Strauss:  Tristes tropiques