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Ullrich Langer (University of Wisconsin-Madison): 'Praise, Virtue, and Fiction of the Court'

How is literary representation determined by virtue ethics (and, to a certain extent, ethics by literary representation)? How does the rhetoric of praise enable a certain kind of literary world, and what are the consequences for the representation of persons, settings, and action? I will compare descriptive or epideictic passages from three semi-fictional renderings of courts, spanning the mid-15th century to the second half of the 17th century, namely Antoine de la Sale’s Jehan de Saintré (finished in early 1456), Baldassare Castiglione’s Libro del Cortegiano (1528), and Madame de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves (1678). On this aesthetic-ethical background, we can contrast two more dramatic scenes, one in which Mme de Clèves justifies to M de Nemours her unwillingness to marry him, and the conclusion of a novella by Albert Camus, entitled “La femme adultère”, in which the protagonist Janine returns to her hotel room and to her husband Marcel, whom she does not love. 

This event is part of the Director's Seminar series, which brings leading scholars and writers to the Institute to share new work and fresh perspectives on key issues in their fields. 

This is also the preliminary event in the short series Reading the Virtues: Literary Culture and the Good Life in Europe, 1450-1750, which continues with a half-day workshop on Friday 28 May and is bookable separately.

image: Mantegna, detail from the court of Gonzaga (1474: fresco, Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua)