Michael Foulkes, who is nearing the end of a PhD in French here at Durham, has just had his article,‘Boursault’s Career Strategies’ published in the journal Early Modern French Studies. It is available to read here.
Michael’s thesis is a comparative research study of the careers of seventeenth-century playwrights Boursault, Quinault, and Racine. He is supervised by Dr Thomas Wynn and Professor Jan Clarke.
We asked Michael to give us a little insight into his research, and latest publication…
100% Reason to Remember the Name, or What’s Trump got to do with it?
One of the key questions that has not been asked during the American Presidential Election is “What’s the connection between Donald Trump and a 17th-century French playwright?” To which the answer is, of course, both make use of controversy to ensure that as many people as possible know their name. Now no 17th-century French playwright ever suggested building a wall around Mexico (as far as I’m aware) but casting aspersions on the private life of a rival, well that was just nuts to your average 17th-century French playwright. But as Mr Trump’s supporters may now be realising, just saying controversial things isn’t always a guarantee of long term success. It may no longer be necessary to deify the Sun King or prove your credentials to the Académie française, but there are still key institutions to be won over.
Granted, the 17th-century French playwright was spared trial by Twitter or the danger of live microphones, but would have been all to familiar with the need to keep influential backers (or patrons…) sweet. And as for dealing with fickle public taste in fashion, try writing comedies, tragedies, gazettes, novels, epistolary novels and the odd libretto over the course of your career. As Fort Minor knew well, anyone who wants to have their name remembered needs quite a variety of attributes, and this article, as part of my wider research, explores how 17th-century French playwrights would ensure their name was remembered. Add together controversy, appealing to key institutions, keeping patrons sweet and keeping up with popular tastes and you’ve really got 100% reason to remember their names…
About the author
Mike studied French and German as an undergraduate at Durham, then studied the plays of Molière for a Masters. During this he became interested in literary controversy and started researching that as part of a PhD examining how authors could make a successful career. After 8 years at St Cuthbert’s he has finally been forced to join the real world. As well as writing this article, he has self-published two books.