The Birth and Rebirth of the Genres in Sixteenth-Century French Literature (Spring 2011, Columbia University, Professor Phillip John Usher)
During the sixteenth century, French literature almost completely reinvented itself, shedding medieval forms, finding inspiration in the newly printed classics of Antiquity, and inventing some completely new modes and models. This course explores this moment through the study of several key literary genres (epic, tragedy, the novel, the essay) with a focus on generic forms and frontiers. In particular, we will look at the ongoing dialogues between old and new, between tradition and innovation, between translation and imitation, as well as at the contemporary and often generically inflected navigation between traditional and new geographic reference points (Ancient Rome, Modern Rome, Jerusalem, the New World). Authors to be studied include: d'Aubigné, Du Baïf, De Bèze, Dolet, Du Bellay, Garnier, Jodelle, Léry, Montaigne, Rabelais, and Ronsard. We will also be reading from Aristotle, Euripides, Seneca, Sophocles, Virgil, and other classical sources. By the end of the course, students will have a solid general knowledge of essential landmarks of the period’s literature and of some of the key critics and thinkers currently working in the field.