French Orientalism (FREN 460.3)

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Description

This course examines how French literature, beginning with Montesquieu?s Persan Letters, constructed an imaginative Orient. The focus is on the mission civilisatrice or the invention of a highly civilized Europeanness through a positive comparison to a supposedly backward and static Orient, and on the imperialistic assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the East, including their racial, cultural, and sexual dimension. The course shows how the different accounts of the Orient reveal the tendency to essentialize a certain homogeneity of the stereotypical Oriental or Muslim, i.e., along with the European imperialist enterprise, the Orient emerged as an intellectual construction that was the opposite of the West. We read a selection of canonical French literary texts (by Montesquieu, Hugo, Balzac, Flaubert, Gide, and others) from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, which are supplemented by film and other media and by excerpts from travel literature, personal diaries, historical chronicles, and scholarly treatises.

Prerequisite(s)

FREN 220 or FREN 230.

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