hist 319-spring 2019



Since the late-eighteenth century, France has undergone massive transformations in the form of revolutions, industrial and technological changes, wars within and beyond Europe, as well as a range of social and cultural metamorphoses. This semester, we will study these crucial shifts, focusing on how the identity of France as a nation has been defined, contested, and re-imagined in a variety of ways since the era of the French Revolution. We will explore different social, political, and cultural tensions within the nation, including complex divisions of class, race and ethnicity, gender, rural vs. urban populations, generations, etc. We will also look carefully at the challenges to definitions of national identity that have come from outside France’s borders, from foreign wars to colonial contexts and immigration.


In this course, students will learn how to better interpret primary documents across a variety of genres (including fictional, non-fictional, written, and audio-visual sources). They will also learn how to identify, evaluate, and respond critically to evidence and argument in their reading of scholarly sources. In addition to becoming familiar with the major periods and events in French history since 1789, students will define and develop a research project of their own, making connections between past and present, and developing a central argument about the legacies of history for our understanding of contemporary France.


Tyler Stovall, Transnational France: The Modern History of a Universal Nation (2015)
Emile Zola, The Belly of Paris (1873, trans. Kurlansky)
Annie Ernaux, The Years (2008, trans. Strayer)
Yvan Alagbé, Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures (2018, trans. Nicholson-Smith)
*A number of additional shorter selections will be required.


Course Participation-15%
Short Essay (2 x 20%)-40%
Research Project-35%
*Some assignments and readings may change before the semester begins.