Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only
Bachelors of Science (BS)
Modern Languages and Literatures
Humans have always been fascinated by birds, and this was arguably particularly true in late seventeenth-century France. In my research, I have gathered further evidence for the exceptional status of birds in French court culture under Louis XIV. In a variety of modes in and around Versailles, birds were encountered in situations of captivity, from farms to ornamental cages, and in the wild. They were equally ubiquitous in literature, from the inconspicuous and often anonymous poems, fables, and songs published in periodicals and collections to the more famous fables of Jean de La Fontaine and fairytales of Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy. The first section of my thesis shows how, in literature and at Louis XIV’s Versailles, the popularity of birds as brought about by these aesthetic traits and cultural factors caused them to receive heightened attention which, beyond participating in spectacle and entertainment, also left room for naturalistic interest. I address how birds were allegorized in the service of Louis XIV before seeking to complicate this allegorical narrative in the case of the real and represented birds at Versailles. Then, my second section continues to explore the representation of avian characters in literature, showing how some writers acknowledged yet looked beyond human aesthetic experiences of birds to consider birds’ experiences of bird realities. I ultimately give evidence for contemporaneous awareness of human-bird conflict, demonstrating that literature was anything but oblivious of anthropogenic impacts on real birds. Indeed, the literary perspective was essential in making room for the exploration of subjective human encounters with birds and for imagining the complexity of birds' intelligence, behavior, and biology.
Mullis, Sally, "Des Oiseaux Spectaculaires: Birds Observed and Imagined in French Court Culture Under Louis XIV" (2021). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1714.
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