French 220A: Travel and Narrative in Early Modern France

Instructor: Timothy Hampton

In this seminar we will study the intersection between major works of French Renaissance literature and the rich body of “travel literature” that begins to be produced during the period–both in response to the “voyages of discovery” to the Americas and Asia, and in response to increasing engagement between France and the Ottoman Empire. Beginning with a look at such canonical genres as the “natural history” and the pilgrimage narrative, we will study the ways in which conventions, clichés and material from travel begin to find their way into that discourse that would come to be called “literature”–poems, plays, essays, fiction.  Among the topics to be studied: the “uses” of travel in non-travel writing; the depiction of the traveler’s body; the role of the “island”; the relationship between travel and translation; travel and diplomacy; travel and monstrosity. Works by figures such as Rabelais, Montaigne, and Ronsard will be read in dialogue with writing by various travelers and scribes such as Léry, Thevet, Cartier, Leo Africanus, and Pigafetta, as well as contemporary critics interested in the rhetoric of travel.

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills an elective requirement for the DE in REMS.