ENG1009H: France and its Others
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“Cultures Over Time” (CUOT) courses allow students to explore the distinctiveness of the past and how it relates to the present through an investigation of values, traditions, modes of thinking, and modes of behavior of one or more cultures, beginning before 1900. CUOT courses will enable students to: --Understand the role of historical context in cultural production and the complex and multiple ways in which cultures evolve over time. --Analyze the cultural artifacts of pre-twentieth century societies using multiple kinds of sources. --Write and defend historically grounded arguments using both primary and secondary materials.¶ FRANCE AND ITS OTHERS While the notion of a cultural “melting pot” is central to American society, French society has been structured around a distinctly French notion of universalism: the idea that there are core universal values that must supersede those of any minority subculture. Thus, although Americans regularly embrace multiple identifications--as African-Americans, or Jewish Americans, for example--in France that double alliance is largely experienced as a tension.... This class traces the roots of that tension by examining ways that otherness has inspired and troubled the French imagination through literary, historical and philosophical readings by major French writers from the 1500s to the present day. From Montaigne’s cannibals to the noble savages of Enlightenment texts, from Zola’s “J’accuse!” to the story of Babar, from the female other to the other as Jew to the other as Jewish female, we will explore the myriad ways through which France’s imagined others serve as manifestations of a cultural fascination with and anxiety about difference in its many forms. As we analyze the various intellectual conflicts that have arisen from the quest to understand what is deemed different, foreign, exotic or strange, we will also trace a struggle to define and circumscribe notions of French identity, selfhood and authority. Finally, at the semester’s end, we will use what we have synthesized from these thinkers to consider contemporary debates in French society about the place of religious and ethnic difference in the public sphere.
Mesch, R. (2022, Fall). ENG1009H: France and its Others. Yeshiva College, Yeshiva University.
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