RLFR 232
Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ? Race, Gender, and Political Power in Eighteenth-Century France Spring 2023
Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed COMP 219 / RLFR 232

Class Details

The French Revolution of 1789 was, to a large extent, inspired by Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot who promoted ideas on individual liberty, scientific progress, religious freedom, and secularism. The Revolution brought with it promises of a society freed from the abuses of an absolute monarchy. Yet as feminist thinker Olympe de Gouges would note, when France redefined its notion of citizenship after 1789, it did not include women and people of color. This course examines Enlightenment ideas that led to the French Revolution, while analyzing how those ideas failed to bring true equality. Voltaire, Buffon, and Montesquieu all advocated for the abolition of slavery, but they also held racist and sexist views, justified by pseudoscientific discourse. By further juxtaposing these thinkers with feminist and abolitionist authors such as Olympe de Gouges and Claire de Duras, we will examine how eighteenth-century female authors advocated for the rights of women. Finally, we will analyze artworks such as Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s Portrait d’une négresse (1800) and discuss how France is using such works today to reckon with its history of discrimination.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 20
Class#: 3944
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active class participation, one presentation (8-10 minutes), three to four papers (3-5 pages), and a longer final paper
Prerequisites: excellent performance in RLFR 105; successful performance in RLFR 106; other RLFR 200-level courses; or by French placement exam; or by permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: French majors and certificate students; Comparative Literature majors; and those with compelling justification for admission
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 219 Division I RLFR 232 Division I
DPE Notes: In its focus on Race, Gender, and Political Power, this course centers on a critical examination of difference, power, and equity in eighteenth-century France. Through the study of enlightenment and feminist thinkers and leaders, the course asks students to analyze the social, political, and discursive effects of class, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in narratives on revolution, and to re-examine both past and present definitions of "liberty, equality, fraternity."

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