French 230B, History 280B: Louis XIV – The Court and Culture of Absolutism

Instructor: Nicholas Paige and Peter Sahlins

This course will introduce students to a range of work on early modern court societies via a consideration of the paradigmatic example of such a society, Louis XIV’s “absolutist” court. Moving out from the foundational studies of Foucault, Elias, and Marin, we will explore a number of more recent efforts – coming from the disciplines of both literary studies and history – to parse the historical and historiographical category of “absolutism” and some of the received ideas associated with it (the “Classical Age,” “subjectivity,” indeed “modernity” itself).  Over the course of the semester we will examine a series of “sites” where the culture of absolutism took shape, from the gardens of Versailles and its festivals, to the salons of Paris, and finally to the court of Louis XIV. Central to our concerns will be the specific place and work of literature in the making of absolutist culture; as such, we will be reading a careful selection of canonical literary texts from the period (e.g., La Fontaine, Molière, Racine, Lafayette), alongside a range of other texts and archival documents. Coursework will be structured so as to allow students of other periods and national traditions to develop projects on their own specific interests.

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills the Critical Approaches and Methodology requirement for the DE in REMS. It may also count as an elective.