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“Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” is the national motto of France and of the Republic of Haïti. It finds its origin in the French Revolution but was institutionalized as the official symbol of the Republic in 1880. In this course, we will study literary texts and historical documents to explore these three terms, their cultural and philosophical meaning, their institutional definitions and their application in French society. Who gets to be free throughout French history? If equality is a Republican principle, what about equity? Could fraternity be replaced by a more inclusive term referring to more than one gender? Readings will include texts of multiple genres from the 16th to the 21st century addressing class, race and gender (Michel de Montaigne, Marie de Gournay, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Victor Hugo, Aimé Césaire, Léonora Miano, Paul B. Preciado), one short film, as well as other historical documents such as the “Code Noir,” the “Déclaration des droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne,” the “Décret d’Abolition de l’Esclavage” and the “Constitution” of the Fifth Republic.
Format: seminar; Remote. This will be a remote course available to all students, whether they are on campus or completing coursework 100% remotely. We will convene synchronously via web-conferencing multiple times per week, with an emphasis on discussion in small groups. There will be many opportunities for all course members to interact via a series of varied online activities both during and in-between our synchronous sessions.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Active participation, weekly readings, weekly posts on GLOW, weekly audio recordings, one presentation of a visual document (narrated PowerPoint), multiple steps towards final project: recording a podcast in French [this project, as well as the rest of the course, will take into account accessibility needs and can be modified accordingly].
Any 200-level or 300-level RLFR literature course at Williams; advanced coursework during study abroad; or by permission of the instructor
French majors and certificate students in their senior year; if overenrolled: statement of interest required.
Difference, Power, and Equity
This course addresses the discrepancy between the values promoted by the national French motto and their actual application in French society throughout history. Students will investigate how inclusion within the French nation varies according to race, class, gender, sexuality and ability. They will explore the history of French Republican concepts of inclusion such as universalism and "laïcité" as well as their divisive and excluding potential.