France and the New World in the Age of Enlightenment

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

College of Arts and Law


Code 22664

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 10

Semester One OR Two (not confirmed for 2012-2013)

Module description

This module will introduce students to a range of discursive and fictional texts from the Enlightenment period, all dealing with the themes of the New World and colonisation. The aim will be to familiarise students with the work of major French Enlightenment thinkers, including Voltaire, Diderot and Montesquieu, whilst also providing a historical and literary background to colonialism. Through the study of 3 fictional texts (selected scenes from a play, and two short stories) and 3 discursive texts (colonial legislation, philosophical writing, selected articles from the Encyclopédie), students will analyse how Enlightenment thinkers negotiated the relationship between France and its colonies, and more widely between Europe and the New World. This will involve looking at the definition of the savage and the civilised, and the self-declared cultural superiority of European colonisers; there will be a particular focus on exploring the ways in which Enlightenment thinkers dealt with the issues of slavery and racial equality. Combining understanding of the historical context with close readings of philosophy and fiction, this module will aim to develop students¿ critical and comparative skills.