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date: 29 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the wake of Italian handbooks of good manners, France forged the figure of the honnête homme from 1630 onward. If his merits were evident in conversation, it was thanks to conversation itself that he was able to acquire them. A new form of sociability flourished, one in which women played a decisive role. A host of terms concurrently attempted to define gentle and refined manners, among others civilité (civility), politesse (courtesy), urbanité (urbane elegance), and galanterie (gallantry). Trained in the school of the world, the galant homme should not be confused with the honnête homme, whose ideal, with a solid moral basis, was reshaped by the late seventeenth century. The air galant converted the social qualities of refined society into aesthetic values, thus giving birth to a new form of modern literature, although not without quite a few objections. In its social dimension as well as in its artistic achievements, galanterie was a genuine cultural phenomenon. As such, it was and remained identified for a long time as a key feature of the French nation.

Keywords: Baroque, conversation, civility, wordly sociability, honnête homme, gallantry, French literature, Madeleine de Scudéry

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