French 311 - Fall 97

La recherche du bonheur au dix huitième siècle

The Pursuit of Happiness in France in the Age of Enlightenment

Idylle Champêtre by Boucher

(Avignon Art Museum)

Cours Description

"Oh, le bon temps que ce siècle de fer!" =Voltaire (Le Mondain)

Although the eighteenth century ended in turmoil, artists as well as philosophers and writers firmly believed that they had discovered the secrets of collective happiness. For the playwright Marivaux and the painters Watteau, Boucher, and Fragonard, love and sensuality constituted the main avenues to happiness and in their works they represented a kaleidoscope of psychologies and passions.
For Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, happiness was to be found in a paradisiac dream of a new golden age in which perfect harmony with nature would be achieved (Les rèveries d'un promeneur solitaire, Paul et Viginie). For Diderot, any belief in God was an obstacle to happiness, but like Montesquieu and the painter Greuze, he recommended practicing moral virtue to achieve social harmony (Pensées philosophiques, Les Lettres persanes). For Voltaire happiness depended on the creation of a just and tolerant society in which free men and women lived in peace (Les Lettres philosophiques, Candide). As Chardin's paintings also illustrated, prosperity based on commerce would guarantee that each citizen could live comfortably and even luxuriously. For Beaumarchais, the secret of happiness lay essentially in social justice (Le mariage de Figaro). In this course we will complement the study of literary and philosophical texts with the examination of paintings of the time. We will also view some cinematic attempts at representing eighteenth-century society (Milos Forman's Valmont, Truffaut's L'enfant sauvage, Tavernier's Que la fête commence!, Richard Heffron's La Révolution: les années lumières).
Prereq. French 215 and one of 219, 225, or 230; 2 meetings (75 minutes) or 1 meeting (21/2 hours); 4 credits

Syllabus and Students' Presentations

Syllabus and Course Managment