Department of History
Professor Lisa Jane Graham
History 354: Topics in Early Modern Europe: Libertinage and Modernity
Class meetings: Thursdays 1:30-4:00 in Stokes 301
Office Hours: Mons/Weds 4:00-5:30 and by appointment in Hall 212
Office Telephone: 610 896 1073
This seminar traces the intersection of sex and politics from 1650-1815
through the topic of libertinage. Between the Renaissance and the French
Revolution, the concept of libertinage encompassed both thought and action,
skeptical views of authority and subversive or immoral behavior. Yet even
as libertinage acquired currency as a description of a lifestyle and an
aesthetic principle, it maintained its radical ideological charge. This
topic demands an interdicisplinary approach that engages history and literature
because libertinage is entwined with the spread of print technology, the
changing status of religion, the rise of the novel, definitions of decency
and obscenity, and the emergence of the individual as a locus of rights
and desires. These changes converged in the ideological fervor of the
Enlightenment and exploded in revolution at the end of the century. Our
analysis of libertinage thus illuminates the debates that shaped modern
assumptions about gender and eroticism, censorship and repression, pleasure
and morality, government and authority.
- Michael Feher, The Libertine Reader
- Lynn Hunt, The Invention of Pornography
- Molière, Don Juan
Junior or senior status and at least one prior course in history.
Assignments on which grading is based:
- Attend class, keep up with the reading, and take an active part in
- Weekly 1-2 pp. reading responses (except in weeks where papers are
due), to be emailed to instructor by 10 a.m. on Thursday.
- One oral presentation in which you introduce the reading and guide
- One 5-6 pp. paper due on Friday March 4 by 5:00 PM.
- Final 12-15 pp. research paper on a topic of your choice; due May
6th at 5:00 PM for seniors (NB this date), and noon on May 12 for others.
Full details TBA, including preliminary deadlines for proposal, bibliography
Works preceded by an asterisk (*) are available on Blackboard from
Magill Library. There is a JSTOR link on the course page to the special
volume of Yale French Studies entitled Libertinage and Modernity.
Jan 19: Introduction: Libertines, Libertinage, and Liberty
Jan 26 Models: Sexuality, Civilization, and Modernity
*Elias, “The Civilizing Process”
*Foucault, “Abnormal” (Chapter 7 and 9)
Hunt, “Obscenity and Origins of Modernity” in Hunt.
Feb. 2 Performing Libertinage: Rakes, Royalists, and Politics
Dryden, Marriage à-la-mode
*Earl of Rochester, selected poems
Weil, “Sometimes a Scepter... “ in Hunt.
*Turner, “The Properties of Libertinage”
Feb 9 The Debate over Marriage
*Behn, The Lucky Chance
Norberg, “The Libertine Whore” in Hunt
Feb 16 The Tragedy of Excess
Moliere Dom Juan
DeJean, “The Politics of Pornography” in Hunt.
Feb 23 The Debate about Pleasure
Denon, No Tomorrow in Feher
*Kavanagh, “The Libertine Moment” in Libertinage and Modernity
Library Session for Research Papers
Mar 2 Pleasure and Worldliness
Crébillon, The Wayward Head and Heart in Feher
*Kavanagh, “The Libertine’s Bluff”
FIRST PAPER DUE FRIDAY MARCH 3 BY 5:00 PM
SPRING BREAK MARCH 3-12
Mar 16 Fiction and Politics (Fictions of Power and Surveillance)
Diderot, The Indiscreet Jewels
*Cheek, Sexual Antipodes
Mar 23 Reading, Eroticism, and Imagination
Diderot, The Indiscreet Jewels
*Goulemot, “The Effects of Reading Erotic Literature”
*Laqueur, “Why Masturbation became a Problem”
*Fort, “Accessories of Desire” in Libertinage and Modernity
Mar 30 Sex is Good to Think With: Enlightenment Pornography
Jacob, “The Materialist World of Pornography” in Hunt
*Darnton, “Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France”
Apr 6 Nature, Culture, and Sexuality
Laclos, “On The Education of Women” in Feher
Diderot, “Supplement to Bougainville’s Voyage” in Feher
*Blum, “Rousseau and the Paradoxes of Reproduction”
Apr 13 The Critique of Libertinage
Laclos, “Dangerous Liaisons” in Feher
Nye, “Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor”
Apr 20 Sex, Politics, and Scandal
*Clarke, Scandal (excerpts)
*Hunt, Pornography and the French Revolution
*Thomas, Wicked Queen (excerpts)
Apr 27 Round-Table: Presentations of Research Papers
RESEARCH PAPERS DUE BY NOON ON FRIDAY MAY 12.
SPECIAL DEADLINE FOR SENIORS: MAY 6th BY 5 PM.