Spring 2011

Advanced Seminar

Listed in: French, as FREN-70


Rosalina M. de la Carrera (Section 01)


An in-depth study of a major author or literary problem. The topic for spring 2011 is "Diderot's Lumières."  Denis Diderot, the genial philosophe at the center of the French Enlightenment, was the author of novels, plays, art criticism, music theory, and works on mathematics, politics, and philosophy.  As co-editor of the Encyclopédie, the French Enlightenment’s most ambitious intellectual project and a “machine de guerre” for propagating its ideas, he recruited contributions from the most distinguished thinkers, artists, and artisans of his time, while writing scores of articles on subjects ranging from botany and law to mythology and carpentry.  We will explore a variety of texts drawn from Diderot’s oeuvre, beginning with La Religieuse, a fictional portrait of eighteenth-century convent life, and Le Rêve de d'Alembert, a philosophical dialogue in which Diderot reveals his dangerously materialist views.  We will subsequently read brief selections on politics and religion from the Encyclopédie; excerpts from the Salons, Diderot’s critiques of the French Academy of Art and Sculpture’s exhibitions; and the Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville, a depiction of a utopian Tahiti whose social and sexual customs produce harmonious relationships not just among Tahitians but between Tahitians and their natural environment.  In conjunction with our reading of the novel Jacques le fataliste, we will view Robert Bresson’s Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, taken from an episode in Jacques.  Excerpts from Diderot’s letters to his lover, the Lettres à Sophie Volland, acclaimed as a masterpiece of its genre, will provide yet another perspective on this most versatile and fascinating man.  As we become capable of seeing the commonalities across Diderot’s writings we will give special attention to Le Neveu de Rameau--a novel whose impact on nineteenth-century writers and thinkers was profound, and which is still startling in its modernity.  Conducted in French.  Requisite:  One 300-level French course or equivalent.  Limited to 15 students. Spring semester.  Professor de la Carrera.

If Overenrolled: Permission of Instructor


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2015, Spring 2019