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This course draws on and interrogates our ongoing fascination with kings and queens to study the construction, representation, and undoing of monarchy in France and French-speaking world regions. How did kings and queens—and the favorites, mistresses, artists, writers, artisans, courtiers and institutions around them—legitimize their authority, construct and communicate their image, craft their rule, connect to their subjects? What made queenship different from kingship in a nation bound by Salic law? How did gender and sexuality inform the politics of rule and the representations of rulers? We will be interested in the performances, portraits, decors, castles, and gardens of power— how kings and queens danced and dressed, how they posed and primped. We will also interrogate the undoing of this power. What happens when a monarch gets old? Dies young? Doesn’t have children? Loses their teeth? Falls in love? Wants a friend? How else was monarchy “undone”—critiqued, contested, reformed, punished, and abolished—on the way to the creation of the French Republic? And what do kings and queens mean to us in contemporary culture, as citizens/residents of a democratic republic—if we can keep it? This course is offered in the spring 2021 term.
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