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World Languages and Literatures

FREN 230 - SP21- Paris: The City of Light in Fiction, Art, and Film

November 16, 2020

From Émile Zola’s 19th-century novels to Netflix’s new series Emily in Paris, Paris has long seemed a mythical place as much as a real, living city.

This course examines some of the various depictions of Paris in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. At one point considered “the capital of modernity,” does Paris now risk being turned into a museum forever yearning for its past? Is Paris the romantic “City of Light,” or is it a modern version of a medieval castle, with the rich enjoying the good life within its gates, while the poor are both literally and figuratively marginalized on the periphery of the city? How have patterns of immigration from France’s former colonial empire shaped notions of national identity? Drawing on literary texts, paintings, photo­graphs, and films, and supplemented by critical and historical studies, we will examine both the evolving life of the city itself and its second, symbolic life, with particular attention to the diversity of contemporary postcolonial Paris. Paris is both a city and a symbol, and this course will be accor­dingly a his­tory not merely of what Paris is, but also of what Paris means to Parisians, provincials, and for­eign visitors alike.

This course is taught in English, although students are welcome to read the primary texts in French if they have the requisite level of French proficiency.

There is no prerequisite, and the course is open to all students.

For inquiries, please contact Professor Philippe Brand at

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