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  • Language Taught In: Taught in French
  • Instructor: Pairet, Ana
  • Credits: 3

This course examines inequality in Ancien Régime France. We will map out the overlapping hierarchies that structured social relationships, based on the legal distribution of society into three orders or “estates” (the nobility, the clergy, and the third estate), the marginalization of women and non-Christian populations, and the institutions of serfdom and slavery. Called into question by socio-economic transformations, inequalities persisted until the French Revolution of 1789. If the new regime abolished the privileges of the nobility and the clergy, it maintained other legal and political constraints, notably those which concerned women and slaves in the French colonies. We will address processes of exclusion and dehumanization at work in medieval serfdom and early modern slavery, witch hunts, religious and political persecution, and civil war, to better understand contemporary intolerance and violence. By focusing on debates such as education, religious tolerance, or human rights, we will follow the reshaping of intellectual, moral, and philosophical values from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. Exploring the cultural production of a bygone era allows us to better understand contemporary debates in France as well as in the United States. To that end, we will use a variety of historical, literary, and artistic sources, as well as contemporary historical films.

Prerequisites: Completion of 215/217 or 216/218 is required. The course is also open to students who have completed one prior advanced course in French such as 210/213, and to students who place at the FFH level (kindly contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request a requirement override).  

Learning Goals:

  1. To develop listening, written and aural comprehension, and writing skills in French (Advanced Mid) 
  2. To explore French cultural production from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment and to understand what drives major cultural, intellectual, and political developments. 
  3. To develop analysis and synthesis abilities, via the study of historical, literary, and artistic sources 
  4. To promote interdisciplinary research, via the study of topics relevant to the content and goals of the course (political and social history; history of ideas) and the interests and expertise of students (science and technology, etc.). 

Course materials:
J. Carpentier et F. Lebrun. Histoire de France (HF). Paris: Ed. du Seuil, 1992. ISBN-13: ‎ 978-2757842188
Voltaire, L’Ingénu. Recommended edition: Petits Classiques Larousse. ISBN-13: 978-2035861542
Additional readings will be available on Canvas 

La Reine Margot, Chéreau, 1994
Ridicule, Patrice Leconte, 1996

Exams, Assignments, and Grading Policy: 

Grades will be based on participation, preparation, and engagement (20%), one oral presentation (20%), three tests (30%), and written assignments (30%).