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FR3123 Deadly Passions: Tragedy in Seventeenth-Century France

2015-16: Term 2 only

Convenor: Joe Harris

Assessment:

Coursework: 30%
Exam: 70%
Formative piece: 0%

Overview

Seventeenth-century France has long been recognised as the heyday of French theatre. Yet beneath the stately dignity and formal restraint of its tragedy lie undercurrents of passion and brutality that can shock even modern audiences. Indeed, as this course reveals, much of the dramatic power of seventeenth-century drama resides in the tension between, on the one hand, order, reason and decorum, and on the other, dangerous forces of irrationality, self-interest and passion. And while the period’s tragedy pushes its characters to the very extremes of emotion (jealousy, love, despair, hatred, anguish, fury, and so on) – often with deadly consequences – its aim is not simply to analyse or explore these passions, but also to produce powerfully visceral responses in spectators through a variety of dramatic techniques. By tracing its development from the early works of Corneille to the mature dramas of Racine, this course exposes tragedy as a fraught and complex phenomenon that engages with a variety of issues – of responsibility, violence, free will, politics, death, vengeance, and justice, to name but a few – while resisting any easy explanations or solutions.

Key Bibliography:

The reading for this course will vary year on year, and will normally consist of six plays, three each by Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine. These texts will be specified in advance each year, and will normally be chosen from the following list:

Pierre Corneille: Médée, Le Cid, Horace, Cinna, Polyeucte, Nicomède, Suréna

Jean Racine: Britannicus, Bérénice, Bajazet, Mithridate, Iphigénie, Athalie 

Selected Further Reading:

General

 Hawcroft, Michael, ‘Tragedy: Mid to Late Seventeenth Century’, pp. 262-73, in The Cambridge History of French Literature, ed. by William Burgwinkle, Nicholas Hammond and Emma Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

 Lyons, John D., Kingdom of Disorder: The Theory of Tragedy in Classical France (West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1999), --- ‘Tragedy: Early to Mid Seventeenth Century’, pp. 253-61, in The Cambridge History of French Literature, ed. by William Burgwinkle, Nicholas Hammond and Emma Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

 Worth-Stylianou, Valerie, Confidential Strategies: The Evolving Role of the Confident in French Tragic Drama (1635-77) (Geneva: Droz, 1999)

Corneille

 Ekstein, Nina, Corneille’s Irony (Charlotte: Rookwood Press, 2007)

 Greenberg, Mitchell, Corneille, Classicism, and the Ruses of Symmetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

 Hubert, Judd D., Corneille’s Performative Metaphors (Charlottesville: Rookwood, 1997)

 Lyons, John D., The Tragedy of Origins: Pierre Corneille and Historical Perspective (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996)

 Schmidt, Josephine A., If There Are No More Heroes, There Are Heroines: A Feminist Critique of Corneille’s Heroines, 1637-1643 (Lanham; London: University Press of America, c1987))

Racine

 Caldicott, C. E. J., and Derval Conroy, eds, Racine: The Power and the Pleasure, (Dublin : University College Dublin Press, 2001)

 Greenberg, Mitchell, Racine: From Ancient Myth to Tragic Modernity (Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010)

 Hawcroft, Michael, Word as Action: Racine, Rhetoric, and Theatrical Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992)

 Maskell, David, Racine: A Theatrical Reading (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991)

 Parish, Richard, Racine: The Limits of Tragedy (Paris-Seattle-Tübingen, 1993)

 Phillips, Henry, Racine: Language and Theatre (Durham: University of Durham Press, 1994)

 Reilly,Mary, Racine: Language, Violence and Power (Oxford, New York: Peter Lang, c2005)

 

  
 
 
 
 

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