Les Liaisons Dangereuses Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. In letter 15, what does Valmont call Merteuil about her attentions to her current lover?

2. What occurs in the tale of seduction Valmont tells Merteuil in letter 79?

3. What does Valmont say is notable about the man pursuing Merteuil?

4. What message does the Publisher's Foreword give?

5. What was Laclos' relationship with his own wife and children?

Short Essay Questions

1. Summarize Prévan's "legendary" feat of seduction according to Valmont.

2. What was Choderlos de Laclos' position in society? Describe his family life.

3. What concession does Madame de Tourvel give Valmont, and what are the results?

4. How does Valmont describe Madame de Tourvel?

5. What does the author of the Introduction say is particularly engaging about Laclos' use of the epistolary form?

6. What was the general response to _Les Liaisons Dangereuses_ in the 20th century?

7. Who is Merteuil's "knight," and what does she think of him?

8. How does Madame de Tourvel respond to Valmont's first love letter?

9. What does the author of the Introduction say about potential political messages of social commentary in Laclos' novel?

10. What does Merteuil assert is the reason women become "victims" of seduction?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Discuss the theme of nature and artifice, especially with reference to Cécile, Danceny, Merteuil, and Valmont. What are the natural personalities, interests, motivations, and moralities of these characters? How do they consciously or unconsciously change themselves to show their own or others' various desires? Are nature and artifice associated with any kind of moral message in the novel? How does Merteuil's letter 81, in which she offers the story of her youth and her sexual education, complicate the distinctions between nature and artifice? When do Cécile and Danceny exhibit artificial behavior? How are nature and artifice made ambiguous in Valmont's seduction of Madame de Tourvel?

Essay Topic 2

Analyze the changes in Cecile's character throughout the novel. What characteristics define her in the beginning, middle, and end of the story? Closely analyze Cécile's letters to Sophie, looking for language and phrasing which indicates how she feels about her relationships with others. This includes her thoughts on marriage, her relationship with her mother, her feelings for Danceny, and her friendship with Merteuil. How does her language and her style of writing help define Cécile's character? Why does she stop writing to Sophie? Why is Cécile's voice almost completely absent through the last portions of the novel? What does this conspicuous absence say about her identity, or lack thereof? What control, if any, does Cécile retain over her own life? How does she use this control, or how do others (specifically Valmont) control her?

Essay Topic 3

Define "pornography" and "erotica." How are they alike and/or different? Is there a central issue which divides the two, or are they essentially the same thing? What is their purpose and meaning or implication in popular culture, both to the private person and to society at large? Does _Les Liasons Dangereuses_ count as erotica or pornography, or both, or neither? Why? How do you describe Valmont's and Merteuil's sexual exploits as revealed in letters 10, 47, 71, and 79? Do these letters offer detail about feelings, desires, sexual acts, and body parts in lurid detail, or does the text dance around the issues by only alluding to them and making puns and double entendres? What about these letters might shock or offend a moral or virtuous reader, either in the 18th century or today? What could be the reasons that Valmont and Merteuil enjoy writing such letters to one another? Can writing be erotic without actually referring directly to sexual acts, to the human body, or to specific desires? For example, close-read letter 48, in which Valmont describes to Madame de Tourvel his passion for her, but the letter plays a joke on her by referring to Valmont's night of sex with Émilie in letter 47.

(see the answer keys)

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