Spring 2022

From Sprezzatura to Social Media: Practices of Self-Representation in Seventeenth-Century France and Today

Listed in: French, as FREN-334

Moodle site: Course


Sanam Nader-Esfahani (Section 01)


When the Renaissance philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote that "dissimulation is among the most notable qualities of this century," the word "notable" referred to the prevalence rather than an appreciation of the practice. This course examines the subject of self-representation in light of the culture of dissimulation that dominated the early modern period. To what extent is our behavior codified by society? How do the public and private spaces we inhabit inform self-representation? How do our interlocutors condition our degree of sincerity or caution? How do we conceal our intentions and emotions, and how do our words and bodies sometimes betray our true thoughts and feelings?

Beginning with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century works that theorize and propose models of conduct in public spaces, we will first seek to define simulation, dissimulation, and sincerity and the circumstances in which they are applied. We will also identify the possible consequences of these acts. We will then turn our attention to works of fiction and non-fiction from the seventeenth-century to analyze how these ideas manifest themselves in practice. Finally, we will discuss how early modern texts and their engagement with this subject allow us to critically consider our contemporary practices of self-representation, especially in light of our own culture of curated social media profiles.

All French texts will be read in French, and those not originally written in French will be read in French or English translation. Conducted in French.

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


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