Summer 2010
Fully Enrolled

HUMS 653
The Literature of Letters: The French Epistolary Novel


06/21/2010 - 06/25/2010
Monday-Friday 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM

Allbritton Center 004

Special Schedule: One-week immersion, June 21-25 (Monday-Friday) 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

This immersion course is designed for students who are interested in France or French literature or ideas, but who were not necessarily French or literature majors in college. The broad goal will be to provide a survey of an interesting cultural phenomenon: the French epistolary novel. The general progression of the class will evolve from a discussion of just what distinguishes the epistolary novel as a genre, to an in-depth analysis of a selection of literary texts chosen as much for their content as for their reading pleasure.

Before the 18th century, the first-person narrative was generally perceived as self-indulgent, not to mention distasteful. Eighteenth-century readers, however, became fascinated with the looking-glass of the first person: with the intimacy, immediacy, and confessional aspect of the first-person narrator. It comes as no surprise, then, that the 18th century was the golden age of the epistolary novel, the novel composed entirely of letters.

In this graduate class we will read a series of fascinating epistolary novels that vary widely in both form and content: from Madame de Graffigny's critique of European society (Letters of a Peruvian Woman), to Laclos' biting portrait of aristocratic society (Dangerous Liaisons). We will also read several examples of the epistolary novel's stylistic counterpart, the memoire. Examples from this genre include Denis Diderot's infamous satire of convent life (The Nun) and Abbe Prevost's account of the beautiful, but perennially unfaithful Manon (Manon Lescaut).

Note: No previous knowledge of literature (or the French Enlightenment period) required. Books and discussion will be in English.

Students who register for this class will begin participating in a communal discussion of the novels (and certain cinematographic adaptations) via a blog. During the class week (June 21-25), members of the class can expect to 1) engage in more in-depth analysis of the works; 2) prepare and present their own findings; and 3) work on the mechanics of writing the term paper.

Written assignments will include blog participation, 1 short paper (handed in before the class begins), and one term paper.

This course is not open to auditors.

Immersion courses are worth three units of credit and are academically as rigorous as a regular term course, only the class meetings are compressed into a very short time. Students interested in immersion courses should be aware that the syllabus usually requires that students prepare for up to a month prior to the first class meeting and complete assignments in the weeks following the course. Please click here for more information about immersion courses.

This course is offered during June Immersion II; the deadline to withdraw and receive a tuition refund is Friday, May 14 at 5:00 pm.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
HUMS 653

Andrew Curran (Ph.D., New York University) is a specialist of the French eighteenth century. His work has focused on a variety of topics related to Diderot, physical and moral monstrosity in eighteenth-century French thought, and the early-modern life sciences. He is currently at work on a book on the representation of Africa in Enlightenment thought. Professor Curran has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as the Mellon and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundations. Click here for more information about Andrew.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 8

Texts to purchase for this course:
Francoise de Graffigny, Letters of a Peruvian Woman (Oxford World's Classics)

Charles-Louis de Secondat Montesquieu, The Persian Letters (Penguin Classics)

Abbe Prevost, Manon Lescault (Oxford World's Classics)

Denis Diderot, The Nun (Oxford World's Classics)

Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons (Oxford World's Classics)


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