Fall 2018

Writing Under the Influence: Italy and the Literature of Renaissance France

Listed in: French, as FREN-326


Sanam Nader-Esfahani (Section 01)


In matters of conquest, political alliance, or arts and letters, France’s interactions with Italy during the sixteenth century have left a significant imprint on its history, its language and literature, and even its national identity. With the Italian Renaissance preceding the French, French rulers, thinkers, and artists alike looked across the Alps for inspiration and innovation, and voyages to Italy almost became an obligatory rite of passage for the educated Frenchman. Alongside this admiration, however, was a growing sentiment of suspicion and even rejection, deploring the presence of Italians in the French court.

This course will explore some of the complexities of these relationships by developing three principal threads. The first will offer an examination of sixteenth-century French literature in dialogue with the works of some of the major figures in Italian literary history, such as Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Castiglione, to explore how French writers in turn draw and deviate from the Italian model in their poetry, short stories or nouvelles, and depictions of courtly practice. The second thread places French writers and thinkers on the path to Italy to investigate instead their observations and representations of their Italian experience. And finally, we will read a number of texts expressing the discontent of the French with Italian presence on their soil. We will pay particular attention to those works targeting the Queen Mother (Catherine de’ Medici) and those attacking Machiavelli to better understand the phenomenon of “machiavélisme,” its contribution to Italophobia, and its role in France’s religious wars.

All French texts will be read in French. Italian texts will be read in French or English translation. Students with knowledge of Italian may read texts in the original language. Conducted in French.

Requisite: One of the following—FREN 207, 208 or the equivalent. Fall semester. Professor Nader-Esfahani.


Attention to Writing, Languages Other Than English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018