B357/ F311: Modern France/ Contemporary French Civilization


Dr. Jonathyne Briggs

Fall 2009

Tuesday/ Thursday 1-2:15


Office: Lindenwood 429 (this office might change during the semester)

Office Hours: Tuesday 11:30-12, Thursday 4:30-5:30, and by appointment

Office Phone: 980-6658

Course description: The history of France from the French Revolution to today encapsulates many of the issues that dominate both European and world history—revolution, industrialization, imperialism, war, and globalization.  Historians have often asserted the central position of French history in these all of these events and in many cases deservedly so.  Using both primary materials, including film and music, and secondary materials on these events students will chart France’s shifting economic, political, and cultural situation during the modern era.


Required texts: Gordon Wright, France in Modern Times

                                   Stendhal, The Red and the Black

                                   Michael Burns, France and the Dreyfus Affair

                                   Richard Vinen, The Unfree French

                                   Azouz Begag, Shantytown Kid


All texts are available at the IUN Bookstore and from most online booksellers (Amazon, Half, Abebooks, etc.).  When possible, these titles are also placed on the course reserves at the university library and will be available for checkout for two hours.  Students should consider purchasing these books, but the course reserves should help those who could be burdened by such expenses.


Extra readings (via ERIS):

Sheryl Kroen, “Practicing Politics in an Age of Counterrevolution”

Kathryn Amdur, “The Making of the French Working Class”

Carolyn Eichner, “André Leo and the Subversion of Gender”

Stéphane Audoine-Rouzeau and Annette Becker, “Battle, Combat, Violence”

                                Jonathyne Briggs, “The Pot Head Pixies”



Three 3-5 page response papers, 10% each: The student will write an essay responding to the longer works.  The student can choose which works he/ she will write on.  These essays will respond to specific questions provided by the instructor via the course Oncourse page.  All work submitted must be that of the student, and any instance of plagiarism will receive a zero.  Two instances will receive a zero for the course.  


French Facebook, 25%: The student will create a Facebook page for a fictional French persona assigned by the instructor.  The student will post on her wall, add pictures and other media, and react to historical events in the class at least twice weekly.  This assignment allows for some creativity and requires additional research.


Two Exams, 15% for midterm and 20% for final: The midterm exam consists of short answer and one essay, with the final exam having a similar format with two essays.  The exams will test on materials from the textbook, the lectures, and the longer readings.


Class Participation and Attendance, 10%: Attendance and participation in class discussions have the value of a letter grade.  Attendance will be taken at the beginning of class, and the student must alert the instructor after class if he or she is tardy.  Cell phones must be turned off during class.

The cumulative grading system for this course is based upon a ten-point, +/- scale: 100-93: A; 92-90 A-; 89-87: B+; 86-83: B; 82-80: B-; 79-77:C+; 76-73:C; 72-70: C-; 69-67: D+; 66-63: D; 62-60 D-; and 59 and lower (including plagiarism and cheating): F.

The instructor reserves the right to change the syllabus with ample notification.  An Oncourse page for the course will contain all changes and notices on an electronic version of the syllabus




Week One—The French Revolution

September 1: Course Overview/ Historical Background of Absolutism                          

September 3: Origins of the French Revolution, Wright 24-41


Week Two—Napoleonic France

Reading: Kroen, “Practicing Politics in an Age of Counterrevolution”

September 8: The Terror and the Directory, Wright 41-63

September 10: Napoleon and the First Empire, Wright 63-88 


Week Three—The Restoration and July Monarchy

Reading Assignment: Stendhal, The Red and the Black, First paper due

September 15: The Return of the Monarchy, Wright 89-105               

September 17: The Challenge of Liberalism, Wright 106-122


Week Four—1848 and Second Empire

Reading Assignment: Amdur article (discussion on September 24)

September 22: The Second Republic, Wright 123-135

September 24: Napoleon III, Wright 136-170


Week Five—Third Republic

Reading Assignment: Eichner, “André Leo and the Subversion of Gender”

September 29: The Commune, Wright 205-223          

October 1: The Consolidation of the Republic, Wright 223-245


Week Six—Fin de siècle Anxieties

Reading Assignment: Burns, France and the Dreyfus Affair, Second paper due

October 6: Political Intrigue and Boulanger, Wright 267-278

October 8: The Dreyfus Affair, Wright 279-288


Week Seven—Belle époque? 

October 13: Paris and Modernity, Wright 246-258, 288-299

October 15—Mid-term Examination


Week Eight—The Great War

Reading Assignment:  Audoine-Rouzeau and Becker, “Battle, Combat, Violence”

October 20: The Guns of August, Wright 300-311

October 22: Surviving the Western Front, Wright 312-320


Week Nine—Interwar Anxiety

October 27: “Civilization Without Sexes”, Wright 321-350

October 29: The Popular Front, Wright 351-362


Week Ten—Strange Defeat?

November 3: The Allure of Fascism, Wright 363-381

November 5: The Collapse of the Third Republic


Week Eleven—Vichy France and the Occupation

Reading Assignment: Vinen, Third paper due

November 10: The National Revolution, Wright 383-397

November 12: A French Civil War


Week Twelve—Postwar Traumas and Rebirths

November 17: Film, Days of Glory

November 19: The Return of de Gaulle, Wright 396-410


Week Thirteen—Decolonization and its Dilemmas

November 24: The Algerian War, Wright 411-417

November 23—Thanksgiving: No Class


Week Fourteen—The Economic Miracle

Reading Assignment: Begag, Shantytown Kid, Fourth paper due

December 1: The Reconfiguration of French Society, Wright 418-422

December 3: The Events of May 1968. Wright 435-447


Week Fifteen— The Long Eclipse?

Reading Assignment: Briggs, “The Pot Head Pixies”

December 8: Challenges to the National Order, Wright 423-434

December 10: Multiculturalism in French Society, Wright 459-465


Final Exam—Thursday December 14, 3:00-4:50