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Rage, Folie, Désespoir : Excess and Passion in Early Modern France (1550-1715)


The Graduate Center of the City University of New York: 5 October 2007 

The Interdisciplinary Group for Seventeenth-Century French Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York invites paper proposals for its annual student conference. This year’s conference will be held on Friday 5 October 2007 . Papers should be 15-20 minutes in length.

Professor Roxanne Roy (Université du Québec and author of L’Art de s’emporter, 2006) will be our keynote speaker, and events will include a performance of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French music on period instruments.

The theoretical construction known as French Classicism has traditionally been characterized by what René Bray termed “le culte de la raison,” which Jean Rohou describes as a “large et profonde aspiration, sur tous les plans, à une discipline à la fois constructive et répressive: absolutisme, rationalisme, moralisme, classicisme.” On the surface, seventeenth-century representations of the passions do exhibit a codified propriety. But, as La Rochefoucauld points out, “Les passions sont dangereuses lors même qu’elles paroissent le plus raisonnables,” and in order to depict the passions in a “rational” and universally understood manner, they were portrayed in dramatically exaggerated fashions. This conference will explore the early-modern French fascination with “Baroque” notions of excess, violence, uncontrollable impulse, and extravagant passion.

Proposals for papers from all disciplines are welcome. Papers may be either in English or in French. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Pascal, Jansenism, and the torment of the passions
  • the language of passion and the code of honnêteté
  • the moralistes and theories of the passions
  • passionate persuasion and the aesthetics of oration (Bossuet, Bourdaloue, etc.)
  • visual and plastic arts (the visual language of the passions)
  • theatrical representations of the passions (gesture, movement, declamation, etc.)
  • music and affect (tragédie en musique, dance, instrumental music, etc.)
  • love and passion in the novel (Scudéry and the Carte de Tendre, etc.)
  • tragedy and the passions
  • gendering the passions
  • medical theory