Fall 2020

Enfants Terribles: Childhood in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century French Literature, Culture, and Art

Listed in: French, as FREN-346

Formerly listed as: FREN-46

Moodle site: Course


Laure A. Katsaros (Section 01)


Images of childhood have become omnipresent in our culture. We fetishize childhood as an idyllic time, preserved from the difficulties and compromises of adult life; but the notion that children’s individual lives are worth recording is a relatively modern one. Drawing from literature, children's literature, history, and art,  we will try to map out the journey from the idea of childhood as a phase to be outgrown to the modern conception of childhood as a crucial moment of self-definition. We will pay particular attention to the nature against nurture debate and to gender biases in education. We will discuss theories of child-rearing, the emergence of children’s literature, and the material culture of childhood (e.g., clothes, toys, children's books).

Readings will include essays by historians of childhood such as Philippe Ariès, Elisabeth Badinter and Colin Heywood; selections from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s treatise, Émile, ou de l' Éducation, as well as excerpts from Félicité de Genlis's Adèle et Théodore, ou Lettres sur l'éducation, and from Henriette Campan's De l'éducation. We will also read a physician's account of the "wild child" known as Victor, Dr. Jean Itard's Mémoire sur l'enfant sauvage de l'AveyronLa petite Fadette by George Sand [Aurore Dupin]; Les Malheurs de Sophie by the Comtesse de Ségur; selected poems by Baudelaire and Rimbaud; and Jules Renard's autobiographical Poil de Carotte. This course will also closely examine eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artists' visions of childhood, with a particular emphasis on female artists such as Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Marguerite Gérard, and Berthe Morisot. Conducted in French.

Class materials will include books, articles, and films. The class will be taught synchronously in person with the instructor participating via zoom. We will make extensive use of collaborative platforms, such as Google Docs and online annotating tools, to enhance student participation, encourage the development of critical skills, and foster discussion.

Requisite: One of the following—FREN 207, 208 or the equivalent. Fall semester. Professor Katsaros.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Research, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing, Languages Other Than English, Online Only


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2023