Intimate Spaces of the French Enlightenment (MLF2066)

15 credits

The starting point for this module is that ideas such as privacy, selfhood and interiority have a history, and may have been thought of very differently in the past. But it is not an easy task to discover how people thought and felt in their most private moments. This module focuses on eighteenth-century France, when privacy and private life came to have particular cultural significance. Literature, painting, interior spaces, and artefacts such as books are used as crucial mediating tools that give access to these private worlds.

We will begin with an examination of the Rococo domestic interior as a site of intimacy and eroticism. We will then consider the promotion of family values as part of civic identity in the Enlightenment period, and the ways in which these domestic ideals were problematised by artists and writers. We will conclude with an examination of Enlightenment notions of the self and the cultivation of interiority through leisure activities such as walking and reading.