Undergraduate Course Descriptions

01:420:455 - Major Currents of French Thought

  • Credits: 3

Course description

This course studies problems central to the French tradition’s understanding of the ways in which we live, think, feel, and act, as seen through philosophical (or semi-philosophical) texts from the 13th through 18th century. We will read works by Jean de Meun, Christine de Pizan, Rabelais, Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot. The course will follow the evolution of notions such as reason, chance, freedom, pleasure, nature, conscience, and otherness, from the apex of the Middle Ages to the eve of the French Revolution.

Course URL - A Sakai site will be available at the beginning of the semester.

Learning Goals

To develop analysis and synthesis abilities in French, in writing and orally, via the study of philosophical and literary sources.

To learn about the evolution of specific ideas through successive periods of French intellectual history, from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. Students will become familiar with:

              1) the methods and objectives of each of the texts under study;

              2) the main correlations and tensions between successive approaches and doctrines.

Exams, Assignments, and Grading Policy

Grades will be derived from a combination of two papers, two exams, one oral presentation, and regular homework assignments.

Course materials

Excerpts from Jean de Meun (Le Roman de la Rose), Christine de Pizan (La Cité des Dames),  Rabelais (Gargantua), and Montaigne (Essais) will be used in pdf form.

The following books will have to be purchased:

René Descartes, Discours de la Méthode. Ed. L. Renault. Paris: Garnier-Flammarion. ISBN-13: 978-2080710918

Blaise Pascal, Pensées. Ed. M. Le Guern. Paris: Folio classique - Gallimard. ISBN-13: 978-2070316250

Voltaire, Lettres philosophiques - Derniers écrits sur Dieu. Ed. G. Stenger. Paris: Garnier-Flammarion.  ISBN-13: 978-2080712240

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité. Ed. B. Bachofen & B. Bernardi. Paris: Garnier-Flammarion. ISBN-13: 978-2081275256

Denis Diderot, Supplément au voyage de Bougainville. Ed. M. Delon. Paris: Folio classique - Gallimard. ISBN-13: 978-2070426256

Faculty - François Cornilliat