au petit peuple, écrasé par la routine d'un quotidien
pénible, il trouvait dans les modestes spectacles mis à
sa portée (et dans les fastueuses mises en scène qu'on
le conviait parfois à admirer) une distraction favorite, qu'il
s'agisse des boniments de bateleurs, des parades jouées gratis
pour attirer le chaland, des représentations publiques de troupes
itinérantes dont les comédiens étaient à
peine moins miséreux que lui, ou des manifestations carnavalesques,
lorsque pour quelques jours on mettait le «monde à l'envers»
en oubliant les différences de condition et de fortune.
Ce cours a pour ambition d'offrir un
panorama des spectacles du Grand Siècle dans leur extrème
variété, mais dans le cadre d'une problématique
unifiée qui, tout en faisant la part belle aux œuvres
«classiques», veut restituer un équilibre souvent
compromis par la prééminence du théâtre
littéraire dans l'univers académique.
Sans se dispenser d'étudier ces textes
révérés qui, aujourd'hui encore, servent de points
de repère culturels, on s'efforcera donc de les replacer dans
le contexte performatif et artistique où ils furent conçus.
On s'attachera également à examiner les aspects souvent
négligés par les études littéraires: la
mise en scène, ses possibilités et les limites techniques,
l'engouement pour le théâtre lyrique, l'énorme
popularité de la commedia dell'arte.
L'utilisation de média multiples (textes,
gravures, tableaux, plans, maquettes, enregistrements, reconstitution
filmée) permettra de découvrir un tableau vivant et
contrasté du Grand Siècle passionné de spectacle
et de spectaculaire.
is impossible to understand France—even France of the 21st century—without
grasping omnipresent, countless references to a Golden Age (Grand
Siècle), when French arts, thought, fashion, taste and
politics served as a model for the rest of the world, circa 1650-1750.
Specifically, it is impossible to understand this Grand
Siècle without grasping the crucial importance
of performance and spectacle in an age of ubiquitous showmanship,
not only in playhouses, but at court, in churches and in public spaces
like fairgrounds and marketplaces.
A prevalent academic vision long dictated
that the French seventeenth century was a period of “classical”
(or neoclassical) reason, sobriety, restraint and understatement;
more recently, a rediscovery took place, replacing this traditional
vision with a more authentic version, that of an age of violent passions
and exuberant expression through a variety of spectacular forms, on
and off the stage.
A few decades ago, the French “classical”
canon was limited to plays by celebrated authors like Corneille, Molière
and Racine, which were read and studied as literary masterpieces.
However, it must be acknowledged that these texts were written in
order to be performed, and that their performance often induced passionate
responses from audiences and critics; on the other hand, such plays
found themselves in competition—and not always to their advantage—with
opera, farce, Harlequin’s skits, carnival shows and so-called
“machine” plays (those relying on special effects). Spectacle
was also prominent at court, where Louis XIV—the self-styled
“Sun King”—orchestrated his 50-year reign as a kind
of permanent daily performance that included his wake-up and toilet
routine, lunch, dinner and various other moments of a busy life, presented
as public stage shows to the tune of violins. Even military campaigns
were managed as performances, while lavish parties organized at Versailles
led the king and his entourage to dress up as medieval knights and
re-enact chivalric romances.
The little people, whose life was immensely more difficult
and dreary, also experienced spectacle on a regular basis, be it through
traveling players who staged farces in barns and inns, through public
pageants, and in festivals like Carnival, during which, for nearly
a month every year, social conventions were suspended and everyone’s
life turned into a series of merry, but also sometimes cruel and violent
Whereas we must continue to read those great
dramatic texts of Corneille, Molière and Racine that, to this
day, make up a significant part of the intellectual and cultural grounding
of French people, we must also consider them in the greeter context
of a time suffused with spectacle and performance. In this course,
we will focus very little on literary analysis, and devote most of
our attention to staging and acting techniques, costumes and sets,
audience response and social implications of spectacle. We will also
give their due to the most popular stage forms of the time, musical
theater and commedia dell'arte, both created in Italy in the 16th
century, but which flourished in France in the 17th.
Working with a variety of media (texts, engravings,
paintings, blueprints, models, audio and video recordings, etc.) will
enable us to discover a vivid Grand Siècle with a
passion for spectacle and anything spectacular.
In this course, students are expected to
• Develop a good understanding of the Grand Siècle
from a political, social, economical and cultural perspective, with
particular attention to the role of spectacle in public life;
• Develop a good general understanding of European performing
arts in the 17th and 18th centuries, including neo-aristotelian drama,
“baroque” opera, commedia dell'arte and court pageants;
• Develop an understanding (and appreciation) of "drama"
and "theater" in their performative dimension, not just
as text-based forms.
• Learn to work independently on authentic, original
documents (written texts, film, images).
In this course, students will
• Learn about various aspects of the performing arts (playwriting,
acting, singing and dancing, stagecraft, spectatorship) in the 1700s
• read and analyze a variety of play scripts (tragedy, comedy,
opera, in verse and prose) from a performative perspective
• Acquire analytical and critical strategies towards the study
of various types of non-textual documents: images (paintings, engravings,
blueprints, drawings), film, music;
• Develop their capacity for reading, understanding and analyzing
full-length, complex texts in French;
• Improve their capacity for understanding cultural and social
systems radically different from their own;
• Improve their formal and informal oral expression capabilities
This course follows a variant of the "flipped classroom"
format, which means that class time is devoted to activities in which
students take a central role, with the teacher as moderator. There
are four main activitiy modes:
• Brainstorming and discussion moderated by
the teacher on selected aspects of the themes listed below, based
on students' preparatory work outside of class.
• Screenings of film excerpts and critical
discussion by the students, with the instructor moderating.
• Collective analysis and discussion of documents
(texts, images, film excerpts) assigned as homework ;
• Student Oral Class Presentations (Exposés)
on a variety of selected topics related to course documents or themes.
Attendance is compulsory and will be recorded;
preparedness and participation count for 30% of the grade. In
class, some of the work will be conducted in small groups; you will
also have to prepare short individual analyses at home, from which
you may have to deliver brief in-class presentations. These will not
be graded as such, but your involvement will influence your participation
Students are strongly advised to take notes . Taking
notes efficiently is part of your work in this class (and, more generally,
in college), as your instructor an class discussions will provide
original insights not easily available from any textbook or other
source. If you are unsure about note-taking strategies, consult with
the Writing Center. (http://writingcenter.georgetown.edu).
Attendance and Punctuality
Every student is expected to be present for every
class and arrive on time (repeated tardiness will be penalized). If
an absence is anticipated, the instructor must be notified beforehand
by e-mail or by phone (ext. 5852).
An absence may be "excused" if it was caused
by an unforeseen event or accident that made it impossible or extremely
difficult for a student to attend class, and which can be documented.
If you feel sick enough to miss class, then you should also seek medical
attention and obtain a certificate from the health care provider who
treated you. If you suffer from a chronic mental or physical condition
that occasionally flares up to the point of incapacitating you, you
need to be registered with the University health services in order
to be granted accommodations.
A student who was absent (justifiably or not) remains
responsible for finding out what was done or assigned during the missed
class(es), and for turning in assignments on time. Unjustified absences
will result in a reduction of the portion of the final grade allotted
to "Presence, Preparedness and Participation."
You must come to class prepared by having completed readings
and other assignments as indicated by the instructor, in an appropriate
manner (see the "Total
Commitment Policy"). Manifest lack of adequate preparation
and voluntary participation (i.e., without being individually called
upon) will result in a reduction of the portion of the final grade
allotted to "Presence, Preparedness and Participation."
Because FREN 365 introduces mostly material that students
are not likely to have encountered before, there are no strict prerequisites.
Ideally, students might have completed FREN 251
(the "literary" Gateway course), or have a general acquaintance
with French "classical" literature of the 17th century.
Although the first part of the course will provide all necessary background
information, previous exposure to the social, political and artistic
history of pre-Revolutionary France (Ancien Régime)
would be an asset.
All aspects of this class fall under Georgetown
University's Honor Code, and students are expected to comply with
its rules regarding academic integrity. Outside class work must be
done individually and without collaboration, unless indicated otherwise.
For details about the Honor System, see http://gervaseprograms.georgetown.edu/honor/system/53516.html