During the 17th century there appeared in France a strong literary movement which became characteristic of a new era called “age des Precieuses”. This movement fostered a code of behavior both social and intellectual that spread quickly from the world of the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie.
Although this particular style of poetry is today, as it was then considered, by many, to be artificial and snobbish, it has nevertheless gained a place of importance in French literature thanks to the interesting social factors which brought about its birth. What began as a social style became an intellectual movement, fully acknowledged and recognized by the many poets of the time, among them the most celebrated of all, Moliere.
During the first part of the l9th century a new code of behavior spread from England. This became known as Dandyism. The main representative of the movement was a gentleman known by the name of Beau Brummell He established a code of behavior, especially addressed to men, that had many similarities with “Preciosite”, and I wish to emphasize these similarities without ignoring differences, in order to identify “Preciosite” as a recurrent phase in history.
Some very specific considerations have influenced me in choosing this particular period as a topic for a curriculum unit:
A - Special social events took place during the 17th century in France and during the l9th century in England, events which in turn influenced the adoption of a special code of behavior and, by extension, influenced fashion and literature.
B - The originality, the peculiarity and/or the silliness of these styles can be, after being discussed in different ways, powerful tools to inspire the students, particularly to create poems of their own, in English or in a foreign language.
This unit will therefore:
A - Introduce the Age of the Precieuses and its major exponents.
B - Provide the historical background, explaining issues related just to the 17th century and then to the 19th century.
C - Include examples from the “literature precieuse” and from poetry influenced by Dandyism.
D - Explore the effects of such movements on the society of the time and their close ties with fashions in material culture.
E - Explore the similarities between “Preciosite” and “Dandyism”.