19-20 ML2305: Deviance, Defiance and Disorder in Early Modern Spanish and French Literature

This course introduces students to a range of important texts and authors, both canonical and non-canonical, from early modern Spain and France. Yet it does so through a selection of outsider figures – characters whose aberrant or idiosyncratic identity, outlook, or behaviour sets them at odds with their society. The characters on this course thus challenge some of society’s most deeply entrenched but often unwritten codes – of reason, gender, decorum, sexuality, class, and religion – and can thus offer important insights into the workings and values of the society whose norms they transgress. As we shall see, though, the treatment of such figures can vary widely. Whereas the outsider’s departure from the norm is often apparently ridiculed or censured, it can sometimes be celebrated or rehabilitated – whether by other characters within the fiction or by the literary work itself. Indeed, the period’s fascination with marginal or transgressive characters and behaviour betrays throughout a deep unease about the validity of its own norms and standards.