This article is a general introduction to French literature. For detailed information on French literature in specific historic periods, see the separate historical articles in the template to the right. French literature is speaking, literature written in the French language by citizens of France. Literature written in French language, by citizens of other nations such as Belgium, Canada, Algeria, etc. is referred to as Francophone literature. France itself ranks first in the list of Nobel Prizes in literature by country. French literature has been for French people an object of national pride for centuries, it has been one of the most influential components of the literature of Europe; the French language is a Romance language derived from Latin and influenced principally by Celtic and Frankish. Beginning in the 11th century, literature written in medieval French was one of the oldest vernacular literatures in western Europe and it became a key source of literary themes in the Middle Ages across the continent.
Although the European prominence of French literature was eclipsed in part by vernacular literature in Italy in the 14th century, literature in France in the 16th century underwent a major creative evolution, through the political and artistic programs of the Ancien Régime, French literature came to dominate European letters in the 17th century. In the 18th century, French became the literary lingua franca and diplomatic language of western Europe, French letters have had a profound impact on all European and American literary traditions while at the same time being influenced by these other national traditions Africa, the far East have brought the French language to non-European cultures that are transforming and adding to the French literary experience today. Under the aristocratic ideals of the Ancien Régime, the nationalist spirit of post-revolutionary France, the mass educational ideals of the Third Republic and modern France, the French have come to have a profound cultural attachment to their literary heritage.
Today, French schools emphasize the study of novels and poetry. The literary arts are sponsored by the state and literary prizes are major news; the Académie française and the Institut de France are important linguistic and artistic institutions in France, French television features shows on writers and poets. Literature matters to the people of France and plays an important role in their sense of identity; as of 2006, French literary people have been awarded more Nobel Prizes in Literature than novelists and essayists of any other country. In 1964 Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, but he declined it, stating that "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution if it takes place in the most honorable form." For most of the 20th century, French authors had more Literature Nobel Prizes than those of any other nation. The following French or French language authors have won a Nobel Prize in Literature: 1901 – Sully Prudhomme 1904 – Frédéric Mistral 1911 – Maurice Maeterlinck 1915 – Romain Rolland 1921 – Anatole France 1927 – Henri Bergson 1937 – Roger Martin du Gard 1947 – André Gide 1952 – François Mauriac 1957 – Albert Camus 1960 – Saint-John Perse 1964 – Jean-Paul Sartre 1969 – Samuel Beckett 1985 – Claude Simon 2000 – Gao Xingjian 2008 – J. M. G.
Le Clézio 2014 – Patrick Modiano Grand Prix de Littérature Policière – created in 1948, for crime and detective fiction. Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française – created 1918. Prix Décembre – created in 1989. Prix Femina – created 1904, decided each year by an female jury, although the authors of the winning works do not have to be women. Prix Goncourt – created 1903, given to the author of "the best and most imaginative prose work of the year". Prix Goncourt des Lycéens – created in 1987. Prix Littéraire Valery Larbaud – created in 1957. Prix Médicis – created 1958, awarded to an author whose "fame does not yet match their talent." Prix Renaudot – created in 1926. Prix Tour-Apollo Award – 1972–1990, given to the best science fiction novel published in French during the preceding year. Prix des Deux Magots – created in 1933. Middle Ages anonymous – La Chanson de Roland Chrétien de Troyes – Yvain ou le Chevalier au Lion, Lancelot, ou le Chevalier à la charrette various – Tristan et Iseult anonymous – Lancelot-Graal known as the prose Lancelot or the Vulgate Cycle Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung – Roman de la Rose Christine de Pizan – "The Book of the City of Ladies" 16th century François Rabelais – La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel 17th century Honoré d'Urfé – L'Astrée Madame de Lafayette – La Princesse de Clèves 18th century Abbé Prévost – Manon Lescaut Voltaire – Candide, Zadig ou la Destinée Jean-Jacques Rousseau – Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse Denis Diderot – Jacques le fataliste (Jacques the Fata
Louis Pierre Althusser was a French Marxist philosopher. He was born in Algeria and studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he became Professor of Philosophy. Althusser was a longtime member—although sometimes a strong critic—of the French Communist Party, his arguments and theses were set against the threats that he saw attacking the theoretical foundations of Marxism. These included both the influence of empiricism on Marxist theory, humanist and reformist socialist orientations which manifested as divisions in the European communist parties, as well as the problem of the "cult of personality" and of ideology. Althusser is referred to as a Structural Marxist, although his relationship to other schools of French structuralism is not a simple affiliation and he was critical of many aspects of structuralism. Althusser's life was marked by periods of intense mental illness. In 1980, he killed the sociologist Hélène Rytmann, by strangling her, he was declared unfit to stand trial due to insanity and committed to a psychiatric hospital for three years.
He did little further academic work, dying in 1990. Althusser was born in French Algeria in the town of Birmendreïs, near Algiers, to a pied-noir petit-bourgeois family from Alsace, France, his father, Charles-Joseph Althusser, was a lieutenant officer in the French army and a bank clerk, while his mother, Lucienne Marthe Berger, a devout Roman Catholic, worked as a schoolteacher. According to his own memoirs, his Algerian childhood was prosperous. In 1930, his family moved to the French city of Marseille as his father was to be the director of the Compagnie algérienne de banque branch in the city. Althusser spent the rest of his childhood there, excelling in his studies at the Lycée Saint-Charles and joining a scout group. A second displacement occurred in 1936 when Althusser settled in Lyon as a student at the Lycée du Parc, he was accepted by the regarded higher-education establishment École Normale Supérieure in Paris. At the Lycée du Parc, Althusser was influenced by Catholic professors, joined the Catholic youth movement Jeunesse Étudiante Chrétienne, wanted to be a Trappist.
His interest in Catholicism coexisted with his communist ideology, some critics argued that his early Catholic introduction affected the way he interpreted Karl Marx. After a two-year period of preparation under Jean Guitton at the Lycée du Parc, Althusser was admitted into the ENS in July 1939, but his attendance was deferred by many years because he was drafted to the French Army in September of that year in the run-up to World War II and, like most French soldiers following the Fall of France, was captured by the Germans. Seized in Vannes in June 1940, he was held in a prisoner-of-war camp in Schleswig-Holstein, in Northern Germany, for the five remaining years of the war. In the camp, he was at first drafted to hard labour but reassigned to work in the infirmary after falling ill; this second occupation allowed him to read literature. In his memoirs, Althusser described the experiences of solidarity, political action, community in the camp as the moment he first understood the idea of communism.
Althusser recalled: "It was in prison camp that I first heard Marxism discussed by a Parisian lawyer in transit—and that I met a communist". His experience in the camp affected his lifelong bouts of mental instability, reflected in constant depression that lasted until the end of life. Psychoanalyst Élisabeth Roudinesco has argued that the absurd war experience was essential for Althusser's philosophical thought. Althusser resumed his studies at the ENS in 1945 to prepare himself for the agrégation, an exam to teach philosophy in secondary schools. In 1946, Althusser met sociologist Hélène Rytmann, a Jewish former French Resistance member with whom he was in a relationship until he killed her by strangulation in 1980; that same year, he started a close friendly relationship with Jacques Martin, a G. W. F. Hegel and Herman Hesse translator, who committed suicide and to whom Althusser dedicated his first book. Martin was influential on Althusser's interest on reading the bibliography of Jean Cavaillès, Georges Canguilhem and Hegel.
Although Althusser remained a Catholic, he became more associated with left-wing groups, joining the "worker priests" movement and embracing a synthesis of Christian and Marxist thought. This combination may have led him to adopt German Idealism and Hegelian thought, as did Martin's influence and a renewed interest on Hegel in the 1930s and 1940s in France. In consonance, Althusser's master thesis to obtain his diplôme d'études supèrieures was "On Content in the Thought of G. W. F. Hegel". Based on The Phenomenology of Spirit, under Gaston Bachelard's supervision, Althusser disserted on how Marx's philosophy refused to withdraw from the Hegelian master–slave dialectic. According to the researcher Gregory Elliott, Althusser was a Hegelian at that time but only for a short period. In 1948, he was approved to teach in secondary schools but instead made a tutor at the ENS to help students prepare for their own agrégation, his performance on the exam—he was the best ranked on the writing part and second on the oral module—guaranteed this change on his occupation.
He was responsible for offering special courses and tutorials on particular topics and on particular figures from the history of philosophy. In 1954, he became secrétaire de l'école litteraire (secretary of the
François Charles Mauriac was a French novelist, critic and journalist, a member of the Académie française, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur in 1958, he was a lifelong Catholic. François Charles Mauriac was born in France, he studied literature at the University of Bordeaux, graduating in 1905, after which he moved to Paris to prepare for postgraduate study at the École des Chartes. On 1 June 1933 he was elected a member of the Académie française. A former Action Francaise supporter, he turned to the left during the Spanish Civil War, criticizing the Catholic Church for its support of Franco, he supported Petain after France's fall, but joined the resistance as early as December 1941. He was the only member of the Academie Francaise to publish a resistance text with the Editions de Minuit. Mauriac had a bitter dispute with Albert Camus following the liberation of France in World War II. At that time, Camus edited the resistance paper Combat.
Camus said newly liberated France should purge all Nazi collaborator elements, but Mauriac warned that such disputes should be set aside in the interests of national reconciliation. Mauriac doubted that justice would be impartial or dispassionate given the emotional turmoil of liberation. Despite having been viciously criticised by Robert Brasillach he campaigned against his execution. Mauriac had a bitter public dispute with Roger Peyrefitte, who criticised the Vatican in books such as Les Clés de saint Pierre. Mauriac threatened to resign from the paper he was working with at the time if they did not stop carrying advertisements for Peyrefitte's books; the quarrel was exacerbated by the release of the film adaptation of Peyrefitte's Les Amitiés Particulières and culminated in a virulent open letter by Peyrefitte in which he accused Mauriac of homosexual tendencies and called him a "Tartuffe". Mauriac was opposed to French rule in Vietnam, condemned the use of torture by the French army in Algeria.
In 1952 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature "for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life". He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur in 1958, he published a biography of Charles de Gaulle. Mauriac's complete works were published in twelve volumes between 1950 and 1956, he encouraged Elie Wiesel to write about his experiences as a Jew during the Holocaust, wrote the foreword to Elie Wiesel's book Night. He was the father of writer Claude Mauriac and grandfather of Anne Wiazemsky, a French actress and author who worked with and married French director Jean-Luc Godard. François Mauriac died in Paris on 1 September 1970 and was interred in the Cimetière de Vemars, Val d'Oise, France. 1926 — Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française 1933 — Member of the Académie française 1952 — Nobel Prize in Literature 1958 — Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur 1913 – L'Enfant chargé de chaînes 1914 – La Robe prétexte 1920 – La Chair et le Sang 1921 – Préséances 1922 – Le Baiser au lépreux 1923 – Le Fleuve de feu 1923 – Génitrix 1923 – Le Mal 1925 – Le Désert de l'amour 1927 – Thérèse Desqueyroux 1928 – Destins 1929 – Trois Récits A volume of three stories: Coups de couteau, 1926.
1939 – Les Chemins de la mer 1941 – La Pharisienne 1951 – Le Sagouin 1952 – Galigaï 1954 – L'Agneau 1969 – Un adolescent d'autrefois 1972 – Maltaverne 1938 – Asmodée 1945 – Les Mal Aimés 1948 – Passage du malin 1951 – Le Feu sur terre 1909 – Les Mains jointes 1911 – L'Adieu à l'Adolescence 1925 – Orages 1940 – Le Sang d'Atys 1931 – Holy Thursday: an Intimate Remembrance 1960 – Memoires Interieurs 1962 – Ce Que Je Crois 1964 – Soiree Tu Danse 1937 – Life of Jesus 1919 – Petits Essais de Psychologie Religieuse: De quelques coeurs inquiets. Paris: Societe litteraire de France. 1919. 1936 - “God and Mammon” in ‘Essays in Order: New Series, No. 1’. Edited by Christopher Dawson and Bernard Wall. Published in London by Sheed & Ward 1961 – Second Thoughts: Reflections on literature and on Life (tr. by Adrienne Foul
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI. It is located in the department of Yvelines, in the region of Île-de-France, about 20 kilometres southwest of the centre of Paris; the palace is now a Monument historique and UNESCO World Heritage site, notable for the ceremonial Hall of Mirrors, the jewel-like Royal Opera, the royal apartments. The Palace was stripped of all its furnishings after the French Revolution, but many pieces have been returned and many of the palace rooms have been restored. In 2017 the Palace of Versailles received 7,700,000 visitors, making it the second-most visited monument in the Île-de-France region, just behind the Louvre and ahead of the Eiffel Tower; the site of the Palace was first occupied by a small village and church, surrounded by forests filled with abundant game. It was owned by the priory of Saint Julian. King Henry IV went hunting there in 1589, returned in 1604 and 1609, staying in the village inn.
His son, the future Louis XIII, came on his own hunting trip there in 1607. After he became King in 1610, Louis XIII returned to the village, bought some land, in 1623-24 built a modest two-story hunting lodge on the site of the current marble courtyard, he was staying there in November 1630 during the event known as the Day of the Dupes, when the enemies of the King's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, aided by the King's mother, Marie de' Medici, tried to take over the government. The King sent his mother into exile. After this event, Louis XIII decided to make his hunting lodge at Versailles into a château; the King purchased the surrounding territory from the Gondi family, in 1631–1634 had the architect Philibert Le Roy replace the hunting lodge with a château of brick and stone with classical pilasters in the doric style and high slate-covered roofs, surrounding the courtyard of the original hunting lodge. The gardens and park were enlarged, laid out by Jacques Boyceau and his nephew, Jacques de Menours, reached the size they have today.
Louis XIV first visited the château on a hunting trip in 1651 at the age of twelve, but returned only until his marriage to Maria Theresa of Spain in 1660 and the death of Cardinal Mazarin in 1661, after which he acquired a passion for the site. He decided to rebuild and enlarge the château and to transform it into a setting for both rest and for elaborate entertainments on a grand scale; the first phase of the expansion was supervised by the architect Louis Le Vau. He added two wings to the forecourt, one for servants quarters and kitchens, the other for stables. In 1668 he added three new wings built of stone, known as the envelope, to the north and west of the original château; these buildings had nearly-flat roofs covered with lead. The king commissioned the landscape designer André Le Nôtre to create the most magnificent gardens in Europe, embellished with fountains, basins, geometric flower beds and groves of trees, he added two grottos in the Italian style and an immense orangerie to house fruit trees, as well as a zoo with a central pavilion for exotic animals.
After Le Vau's death in 1670, the work was taken over and completed by his assistant François d'Orbay. The main floor of the new palace contained two symmetrical sets of apartments, one for the king and the other for the queen, looking over the gardens; the two apartments were separated by a marble terrace, overlooking the garden, with a fountain in the center. Each set of apartments was connected to the ground floor with a ceremonial stairway, each had seven rooms, aligned in a row. On the ground floor under the King's apartment was another apartment, the same size, designed for his private life, decorated on the theme of Apollo, the Sun god, his personal emblem. Under the Queen's apartment was the apartment of the Grand Dauphin, the heir to the throne; the interior decoration was assigned to Charles Le Brun. Le Brun supervised the work of a large group of sculptors and painters, called the Petite Academie, who crafted and painted the ornate walls and ceilings. Le Brun supervised the design and installation of countless statues in the gardens.
The grand stairway to the King's apartment was soon redecorated as soon as it was completed with plaques of colored marble and trophies of arms and balconies, so the members of the court could observe the processions of the King. In 1670, Le Vau added a new pavilion northwest of the chateau, called the Trianon, for the King's relaxation in the hot summers, it was surrounded by flowerbeds and decorated with blue and white porcelain, in imitation of the Chinese style. The King spent his days in Versailles, the government and courtiers, numbering six to seven thousand persons, crowded into the buildings; the King ordered a further enlargement, which he entrusted to the young architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Hadouin-Mansart added two large new wings on either side of the original Cour Royale, he replaced Le Vau's large terrace, facing the garden on the west, with what bec
18th-century French literature
18th-century French literature is French literature written between 1715, the year of the death of King Louis XIV of France, 1798, the year of the coup d'État of Bonaparte which brought the Consulate to power, concluded the French Revolution, began the modern era of French history. This century of enormous economic, social and political transformation produced two important literary and philosophical movements: during what became known as the Age of Enlightenment, the Philosophes questioned all existing institutions, including the church and state, applied rationalism and scientific analysis to society. In common with a similar movement in England at the same time, the writers of 18th century France were critical and innovative, their lasting contributions were the ideas of liberty, humanitarianism and progress, which became the ideals of modern western democracy. The 18th century saw the gradual weakening of the absolute monarchy constructed by Louis XIV, its power slipped away during the Regency of Philippe d'Orléans, the long regime of King Louis XV, when France lost the Seven Years' War with England, lost much of its empire in Canada and India.
France was forced to recognize the growing power of Prussia. The Monarchy ended with King Louis XVI, unable to understand or control the forces of the French Revolution; the end of the century saw the birth of the United States, with the help of French ideas and military forces. French society was hierarchal with the Clergy and Nobility at the top and The Third Estate who included everyone else. Members of the Third Estate the more wealthy and influential, began to challenge the cultural and social monopoly of the aristocracy; the Rise of the Third Estate was influential in the overthrow of the monarchy in the French Revolution in 1789. French thinking evolved thanks to major discoveries in science by Newton, Volta, Buffon and Monge, among others, their rapid diffusion throughout Europe through newspapers, scientific societies, theaters. Faith in science and progress was the driving force behind the first French Encyclopedia of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert; the authority of the Catholic Church was weakened by the conflicts between high and low clergy by the conflict between the State and Jesuits, who were expelled from the Kingdom in 1764.
The Protestants achieved legal status in France in 1787. The church hierarchy was in continual battle with the Lumieres, having many of their works banned, causing French courts to sentence a Protestant, Jean Calas, to death in 1762 for blasphemy, an act, condemned by Voltaire; the explorations of the New World and the first encounters with American Indians brought a new theme into French and European Literature. The exchange of ideas with other countries increased. British ideas were important such ideas as constitutional monarchy and romanticism, which influenced French writers in the following century; the visual arts of the 18th century were decorative and oriented toward giving pleasure, as exemplified by the Regency Style and Louis XV Style, the paintings of François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Chardin, portrait painters Quentin de La Tour and Van Loo. Toward the end of the century, a more sober style appeared, aimed at illustrating scenery and moral values exemplified by Greuze, Hubert Robert and Claude Joseph Vernet.
The leading figures in French music were François Couperin et Jean-Philippe Rameau, but they were overshadowed by other European composers of the century, notably Vivaldi, Mozart Haendel and Haydn. For art and architecture in the 18th century, see French Rococo and Neoclassicism Continuing the work of the so-called "Libertines" of the 17th century, the critical spirit of such writers as Bayle and Fontenelle, the writers who were called the lumières denounced, in the name of reason and moral values, the social and political oppressions of their time, they challenged the idea of absolute monarchy and demanded a social contract as the new basis of political authority, demanded a more democratic organization of central power in a constitutional monarchy, with a separation of powers among the executive and judicial branches of government Voltaire fought against the abuses of power by the government, such as censorship and letters of cachet, which allowed imprisonment without trial, against the collusion of the church and monarchy, for an "enlightened despotism" where kings would be advised by philosophers.
These writers, others such as the Abbé Sieyès, one of the main authors of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, became known as the philosophes. They came from the wealthy upper class or Thir
ESSEC Business School
ESSEC Business School is an international higher education institution located in France and Morocco. Founded in 1907, ESSEC Business School is one of the most selective French "Grandes écoles" and referred in France as one of the "trois Parisiennes", together with ESCP and HEC Paris. ESSEC Business School is one of the 76 schools in the world to have obtained the triple accreditation of AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA. ESSEC is the first European business school. ESSEC's flagship program, the Master of Science in Management, was ranked 3rd worldwide by the Financial Times in 2016 for the 3rd year in a row and ESSEC's Master in Finance was ranked 3rd worldwide by the Financial Times in 2017; the school is headed by Prof. Vincenzo Esposito-Vinzi following the appointment of Prof. Jean-Michel Blanquer as French Minister of Education in the Philippe Government of President Emmanuel Macron; the École Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales was founded in 1907 as the Economic Institute by Ferdinand Le Pelletier in Paris.
Its creation is in keeping with other schools of commerce created under Catholic like HEC Nord by the Catholic Institute of Lille or ESSCA by the Institute Catholic of Angers. The Falloux law of 1854 has indeed allowed the rise of religious secondary education; the difficult context for the Church, marked by the Dreyfus affair and the law of separation of Church and State, pushes her to seek to regain influence by diffusing moral values in the business world and by training a new generation of business leaders. In this context of struggle of religious congregations Jesuits against the secular and republican ideology of the state, ESSEC is a late Catholic response to the creation of HEC, it is located at the École Sainte Geneviève in the Latin Quarter. ESSEC has extensive material resources: small rooms suitable for work in reduced numbers and a chemistry laboratory; the first class has the studies last two years. In 1909, an optional third year was introduced; the curriculum does not denote by its originality by structuring itself around a set of law / accounting / languages / technique.
It is through the introduction of Christian moral values that ESSEC intends to stand out: students attend the apologetics conference each week at the Sainte Geneviève School Chapel. Technical education is combined with scientific education, it is possible to integrate the elementary section of the school by graduating first or by holding a non-scientific bachelor's degree, to enter the first year if one holds a bachelor's degree or that the we come from the elementary section and we have passed an exam. In 1913, the premises of the school were seized following the law of separation of the Church and the State of 1905, forcing ESSEC to join those of the Catholic Institute of Paris. ESSEC takes its current name, its resources are reduced: it only has an amphitheater lent by the ICP, the elementary section is removed and lectures are given by the faculty of the faculty. The disciplines taught, which will remain the same until 1960, are languages, the history of commerce, commercial geography, political economy and accounting.
An important place is given with 10 hours per week. With seven courses of law over two years, ESSEC struggles to distinguish itself from a law school and seeks legitimacy; the school hardly survives the mobilizations of the war: in 1914, it counts only four pupils in first year and two in second. It is temporarily closed and reopened in 1915; the third optional year is closed and the school only regains financial stability from 1920 where it welcomes more than 50 students in first year and 150 in 1930. In 1923, alumni association is created: a solidarity fund for widows and orphans of war is being set up. In 1926, the first yearbook of graduates was published and in 1929, the first courses of business ethics were given; the crisis of the 1930s comes to break this momentum: ESSEC must lower its tuition fees because students take refuge in values deemed more secure such as public service or law. The arrival of the hollow classes of 1914-1918 and the economic crisis further increase the difficulty of the situation.
The school is obliged to accept baccalaureate, non-bachelors on exam and free auditors who come to take courses without the diploma, for a tuition fee. In 1932, the Student Office was created and in 1937 the first scholarships were distributed, marking the beginning of a social aid policy; the takeoff is done under the impulse of Camille Donjon from 1939 with the establishment of the selection at the entrance. A preparatory class for the exam was set up in 1941, which became a competition in 1947, the number of candidates permitting it. However, ESSEC refuses to join the unified system of écoles de commerce established by the decree of 3 December 1947 the State now supports the implementation of preparatory classes on the territory. In exchange the ESC spend their schooling from two to three years and organize themselves into a network with tests and subjects common to the written competitions. If HEC and ESCP join this system, ESSEC positions itself as a challenger and keeps its own preparatory classes and competitions.
Two systems coexist as well. To be at the level of its competitors, however ESSEC passes its schooling from two to three years from the year 1947; this situation lasts until 1951, when ESSEC closed its preparatory classes
17th-century French literature
17th-century French literature was written throughout the Grand Singer of France, spanning the reigns of Henry IV of France, the Regency of Marie de Medici, Louis XIII of France, the Regency of Anne of Austria and the reign of Louis XIV of France. The literature of this period is equated with the Classicism of Louis XIV's long reign, during which France led Europe in political and cultural development. In reality, 17th-century French literature encompasses far more than just the classicist masterpieces of Jean Racine and Madame de La Fayette. In Renaissance France, literature was the product of encyclopedic humanism, included works produced by an educated class of writers from religious and legal backgrounds. A new conception of nobility, modelled on the Italian Renaissance courts and their concept of the perfect courtier, was beginning to evolve through French literature. Throughout the 17th century this new concept transformed the image of the rude noble into an ideal of honnête homme or the bel esprit whose chief virtues included eloquent speech, skill at dance, refined manners, appreciation of the arts, intellectual curiosity, wit, a spiritual or platonic attitude towards love and the ability to write poetry.
Central to this transformation of literature were the salons and literary academies which flourished during the first decades of the 17th century. The production of literary works such as poems, works of criticism or moral reflection was considered a necessary practice by nobles, the creation of the arts served as a means of social advancement for both non- and marginalized noblemen. In the mid-17th century, there were an estimated 2,200 authors in France, writing for a reading public of just a few tens of thousands. Under Cardinal Richelieu, patronage of the arts and literary academies came under the control of the monarchy. Henry IV's court was considered by contemporaries a rude one, lacking the Italianate sophistication of the court of the Valois kings; the court lacked a queen, who traditionally served as a focus of a nation's authors and poets. Henry's literary tastes were limited to the chivalric novel Amadis of Gaul. In the absence of a national literary culture, private salons formed around upper-class women such as Marie de Medici and Marguerite de Valois, devoting themselves to discussions of literature and society.
In the 1620s, the most famous salon was held at the Hôtel de Rambouillet by Madame de Rambouillet. The word salon first appeared in French in 1664 from the Italian word sala, the large reception hall of a mansion. Before 1664, literary gatherings were called by the name of the room in which they occurred -- cabinet, réduit, alcôve, ruelle. For instance, the term ruelle derives from literary gatherings held in the bedroom, a practice popular with Louis XIV. Nobles, lying on their beds, would receive close friends and offer them seats on chairs or stools surrounding the bed. Ruelle refers to the wall in a bedroom. In the context of French scholastica, academies were scholarly societies which monitored and critiqued French culture. Academies first appeared in France during the Renaissance, when Jean-Antoine de Baïf created one devoted to poetry and music, inspired by the academy of Italian Marsilio Ficino; the first half of the 17th century was marked by a phenomenal growth in private academies, organised around a half-dozen or a dozen individuals who met regularly.
Academies were more formal and more focused on criticism and analysis than salons, which encouraged pleasurable discourse about society. However, certain salons were closer to the academic spirit. In the mid-17th century, academies came under government control and sponsorship and the number of private academies decreased; the first private academy to fall under governmental control was L'Académie française, which remains the most prestigious governmental academy in France. Founded in 1634 by Cardinal Richelieu, L'Académie française focuses on the French language. In certain instances, the values of 17th-century nobility played a major part in the literature of the era. Most notable of these values are the aristocratic obsession with majesty; the spectacle of power and luxury found in 17th-century literature may be distasteful or offensive. Corneille's heroes, for example, have been labeled by modern critics as vainglorious and prideful; the château of Versailles, court ballets, noble portraits, triumphal arches – all of these were representations of glory and prestige.
The notion of glory was not vanity or boastfulness or hubris, but rather a moral imperative for the aristocracy. Nobles were required to be generous, magnanimous and to perform great deeds disinterestedly, to master their own emotions. One's status in the world demanded appropriate externalisation ( or "conspicuous consump