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The French Enlightenment's Africa, 1650-1800
FREN 325
Fall 2012 not offered
Crosslisting: COL 325

With a few notable exceptions, European missionaries, soldiers, slavers, and natural historians rarely penetrated into the interior of sub-Saharan Africa until the 19th century. Nonetheless, travel accounts by those who did venture to the continent during the early modern era provided an abundance of raw material for a sustained and complex discussion of the black African in Europe. Not surprisingly, whatever the context within which the African was evoked, be it in discussions of cultural relativism, the state of nature, or comparative anatomy, the Ethiopian, Hottentot, or Guinean functioned as a yardstick against which European civilization measured its presumed technical, cultural, and, increasingly, biological superiority. This was, of course, most acutely true after the later part of the 18th century when pseudoscientific racial theories were used to justify the continued existence of the slave trade. In this seminar we will examine both the genres of representation and the ideology behind European views of the black African in French thought. While this class will begin with an overview of the history of cultural contacts existing between North Africa, Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa, this seminar is anything but a class on African history. Rather, the members of this seminar will become familiar with the European representation of Africa and Africans by reading selections from travel accounts and natural history treatises as well as novels featuring European perceptions of the African. Works to be studied include Buffon's Histoire naturelle, Raynal's Histoire des deux Indes, Montesquieu's De l'esprit des lois, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's Paul et Virginie, and Voltaire's Candide and Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA RLAN
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (COL)(FRST)(RMST)

Last Updated on DEC-03-2023
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