Courses available in French


Mon utlime prière: Ô mon corps, fais de moi toujours un homme qui interroge!


French 126: Senior Seminar — Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Readings include: Les Confessions (part 1); Discours sur l’origine de l’inégalité; Emile (excerpts); Discours sur l’origine des langues.

Course Description:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau is perhaps the most controversial and contradictory figure in the history of French literature and culture.  He was a moralist who wrote of his compulsion to expose himself to female passers-by, a misogynist who dreamed of being spanked by his love objects and who created a huge female audience for his works, a theoretician of democracy who was homeless and stateless.  Rousseau’s contradictions were enormously productive: he invented modern autobiography; he was the foremost novelist of his day—he wrote what was the runaway best-seller of the century and he came to epitomize and to disseminate a new culture of emotion and sensibility that spread throughout Europe and that lasted well into the nineteenth century.

But while Rousseau was the father of Romanticism, he was also the most rigorous political analyst of the Enlightenment.  He posed the most fundamental and radical questions: why is there inequality among human beings? How can states and societies be ordered so that people are free and equal? Why do some command and some obey?  What is the self and how is it formed?  How should children be educated?  These questions, along with the life and personality of Rousseau, inspired the French revolutionaries. Was he a crank?  Was he the original theorist of totalitarianism, as some have claimed, was he the founder of modern democracy, as others have argued?  Our seminar will be devoted to exploring these questions and more as we study one of the greatest writers and thinkers in the French tradition.


French 102 or equivalent.

Additional Information:

This course satisfies 1 “Literature/Genre” or 1 “Elective” course requirement in the French major. Satisfies one course requirement in French Minor.  Satisfies 1 “Historical Period” requirement in French major.  Senior standing recommended, but not required.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes