Early Modern France and the New World

Languages & Cultures, School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music

College of Arts and Law


Code 20522

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 20

Semester Across the two (this module will probably NOT run in 2012—2013)

Module description

This module will introduce students to a range of literary and historical sources from the early modern period, all dealing with the themes of the New World and the beginnings of colonisation. The aim will be to familiarise students with the work of major French thinkers from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, including Montaigne, Voltaire and Montesquieu, whilst also providing a historical and literary background to colonialism. Through the study of both fictional and philosophical texts, students will analyse how early modern thinkers negotiated the relationship between France and its colonies, and more widely between Europe and the New World. This will involve looking at the rise of ethnography, the definition of the savage and the civilised, and exploring the ways in which early modern writers, particularly in the Enlightenment, dealt with issues such as slavery. Combining understanding of the historical context with close readings of philosophy and fiction, this module will aim to develop students' critical and comparative skills.