Conceiving Other Worlds: Travel Narrative and Science Fiction in Early-Modern France
This course will concentrate on the important role of science fiction and travel literature in early-modern France. Although these narratives were intended to describe distant worlds and different ways of living, they frequently revealed more about the aspirations, assumptions, hopes, and concerns of the cultures in which they originated than about their actual subject matter. Authors frequently sought to determine the identity and uniqueness of their own cultures by contrasting them against the 'otherness' of their imagined subjects. Similarly, by describing either utopian or dystopian civilizations, writers attempted to highlight the problems that plagued their own societies. Among other texts, we will read selections from Montaigne's 'Essais,' Cyrano de Bergerac's 'L'Autre monde ou les états et empires de la Lune,' Huygens's 'Nouveau traité de la pluralité des mondes,' Fontenelle's 'Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes,' Voltaire's 'Micromegas,' Bougainville's 'Voyage autor du monde,' and Diderot's 'Supplement au voyage de Bougainville.' Taught in English. Readings in French (English translations available).