Public Memory and the Ghosts of History (FREN 307g)

*Undergraduate applicants only, graduate students are not eligible*



Program Information

In Paris, the past is ever-present, embedded throughout public space, in what Pierre Nora calls lieux de mémoire (“realms of memory”). But which past? Whose history? Which stories from the past are conserved, reconstructed, transfigured, or overwritten upon the palimpsest of collective memory? Which losses are remembered, mourned, commemorated, and represented today? Which ones are forgotten, disavowed, or concealed? And of those lost histories—effaced from public memory, official archives, and master narratives—what traces remain?

Conducted in English, this Maymester course will explore ghostly figures of the past that are left behind, or that emerge, within the cultural spaces of the French République. We will learn to make sense of such spectral encounters by developing a critical approach to historical and cultural texts, while living and studying in the City of Lights. We will approach the course themes through an experiential and culturally-immersive approach, based on thoughtful observation, active involvement, and hands-on learning in the field.

The class will begin with a week of preparatory coursework, during which we will study key moments in French history that have shaped national identity and collective consciousness. The following 3 weeks will be spent in Paris, with daily class meetings in the morning, and visits to cultural sites in the afternoon. We will build on the cultural, historiographical, and theoretical foundations established in the classroom to delve into questions of loss, trauma, and political violence, and to experience Paris through its national and (post)colonial “realms of memory.”

Morning classes will be held at the IES Abroad Center in the Montparnasse neighborhood. There will be required, guided site visits 2-3 times per week, optional walking tours and group meals with the professor, and many informal suggestions on how to visit Paris off the beaten track. Office hours will be held at the IES Center, online, and/or at local cafés.

Homestay housing with a French family will be arranged by IES Abroad Paris and will include a private bedroom, 5 breakfasts, and 3 dinners per week.*

This course fulfills a GE-B requirement as well as French major/minor credit. Enrollment priority will be given to French majors and minors.

As the program is meant to provide a culturally immersive experience, a basic level of conversational and reading French is required (completion of FREN-150 or equivalent).

To be added to the email list for more information, please fill out this interest form:

*If the homestay option becomes unavailable due to public health reasons (Covid-19 or otherwise), housing will be provided in single or double occupancy “hôtel-appartment” rooms.

Contact Information

Faculty Director: Guilan Siassi