Thursday, February 13, 2014


For the second week of our World Lit 2 course, we discussed Tartuffe. This is much lighter fare than "A Modest Proposal," and most of the students really enjoyed it.  The author of TartuffeMolìère, is almost the French equivalent of Shakespeare - he is revered and admired -- through not as prolific.  Tartuffe is a comedy of manners, and all the characters are 'type' characters -- foolish father; obedient daughter; hypocritical religious figure; wise, witty maid; hot-tempered son.

Tartuffe is the epitome of a hypocrite - seemingly very holy and religious, but wasting no time in seducing his host's wife when alone with her.  Orgon, the husband/father in the play, is so taken in by Tartuffe he disinherits his son and leaves all his worldly goods to this near-stranger.  Orgon only believes Tartuffe's perfidy when he catches Tartuffe in the act.

As this is the first time teaching this text, I did not anticipate what questions would  yield good discussions.  We ended up having rousing discussions on morality, fidelity, adultery (just by calling it adultery we are making judgments about it, one student pointed out), and arranged marriages.  The class includes two male students from Africa - Egypt and Kenya.  They have seen arranged marriages and polygamy firsthand, so we had a fascinating discussion on these topics, with students taking wildly different positions on the topics.  This is what makes teaching so stimulating, so invigorating, so fun!  Take a text written in the mid 1600s, and find relevant themes for 2014.  Wow!

Here is a link to the text, for those of you who want to read it:

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