Courses available in French


Le soleil est rare et le bonheur aussi l’amour s’Ă©gare au long de la vie.

— Gainsbourg

French 140B: French Literature in English Translation — The Crafting of the French Philosopher — from Montaigne to Sartre


Diogenes Laertius, The Lives of Eminent Philosophers (“Life of Diogenes”); Michel de Montaigne, Essays (I, 20 and III, 13) ; René Descartes, Discourse on Method, Nicolas Fontaine, Conversations of Pascal with de Saci on Epictetus and Montaigne ; Blaise Pascal, Pensées (excerpts) ; Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, Conversations on the plurality of worlds, Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (excerpts) ; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions (books I and II) ; Ernest Renan, Philosophical dramas (the play entitled Caliban) ; Jean-Paul Sartre, The Words.

Course Description:

In France, the figure of the public intellectual has a long, eventful and often fascinating history. This survey class introduces students to this social and intellectual tradition by examining some of the ways in which the philosopher became an essential part of French culture. The course is not devoted to the study of philosophical doctrines or systems per se, – though the instructor makes every effort to furnish the students with the information they need to grasp the philosophical stakes in the texts studied. Rather, the class asks why and how the public practice of philosophy became, in France, a distinct social, institutional and even political possibility. Accordingly, the readings are intended as inquiries into the ways a variety of philosophical figures crafted positions for themselves in French society. The class also pays careful attention to the social and institutional settings in which (and, in many cases, outside of which) these “philosophers” conducted their activities, examining how their writings worked to transform and/or uphold the society in which they appeared. These forms of contextualization are meant to encourage a historical understanding of how key representations of philosophical activity – such as “enlightenment” or “engagement” – emerged and were played out.

Students will receive general bibliographical training on how to conduct research in the humanities and written exercises will include an end-of-term research paper. All readings, lectures and class discussions are conducted in English.

Additional Information:

No knowledge of French is required.  All lectures and discussions in English. This course can satisfy 1 “Outside Elective” course requirement in the French major, with prior approval of French Undergraduate Major Adviser.

Satisfies College of Letters and Science breadth  in Philosophy and Values.


Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes