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Violence, Religion and Revolt in Renaissance France

Module Code: FR331
Module Name: Violence, Religion and Revolt in Renaissance France
Module Credits: 30

Politics, violence, and religion are burning issues today, to the extent that the media speak of the ‘new’ Wars of Religion, whilst others defend the principles of secularity. But what were the first Wars of Religion? To what extent were violence, religion and state-making interwoven at the dawn of French modernity? Do the sixteenth-century texts that describe massacres and brutality, but also formulate principles of just war, peace-keeping and good governance have a particular resonance for the present? On this module, we will investigate issues of political thought (good vs. bad governance; kingship vs. tyranny; rebellion and resistance); the relation between religion and state; and the place of violence, tolerance, persecution and freedom of conscience in society. At the same time, we will pay attention to the relation between physical conflict and polemics (conflicts fought out in writing), specifically to the role of satires and pamphlets in Early Modern disputes –– all hot topics of current research! Our primary sources will be very varied, and will include poetry, philosophical Essais, clandestine pamphlets and diplomatic dispatches – as well as more recent representations of the era in French fiction and film, with Robert Merle's novel Fortune de France (1977, translated in 2014 as The Brethren) and Patrice Chéreau's film La Reine Margot (1994 / version restaurée 2014).

Module outline

This module investigates issues of political thought (good vs. bad governance; kingship vs. tyranny; rebellion and resistance); the relation between religion and state; and the place of violence, tolerance, persecution and freedom of conscience in society. At the same time attention is paid to the relation between physical conflict and polemics (conflicts fought out in writing), specifically to the role of satires and pamphlets in Early Modern conflicts and disputes ––all hot topics of current research!

You will study a variety of primary sources, including work by some of the best-known writers and thinkers of Early Modern France –from the poésie engagée of (Catholic) Pierre de Ronsard and Rémy Belleau, on the one hand, and the protestant soldier-poet Agrippa d’Aubigné, on the other, over Montaigne’s philosophical Essais, to clandestine pamphlets and diplomatic dispatches. Our materials will also incorporate more recent representations of the era in French fiction and film with Robert Merle's (d. 2004) novel Fortune de France (1977, translated in 2014 as The Brethren) and Patrice Chéreau's film La Reine Margot (1994 / version restaurée 2014) (based on Alexandre Dumas' novel of the same name and recently placed on the curriculum for the Aggrégation exam).

La Reine Margot poster (English) A d Robert Merle Fortune de France cover Le Théâtre des Cruautés de Richard Verstegan (1587) ed. F. Lestringant

Assessment Method:

EITHER 50% assessed plus 50% exam OR 100% assessed