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IDSEMUG 2077 - Identity, Childhood, Citizenship: The Case of Modern France

The Dutch humanist Erasmus stated, “Man is not born but fashioned.” According to him, identity is not inherent and fixed but is instead cultivated and transmitted. This interdisciplinary seminar will explore the process and politics of identity formation through a case study of modern France and its social, cultural, and political institutions. These questions are particularly salient in this context because since the Third Republic, France has actively sought to transmit a singular national identity, resulting in the investment of a specific developmental period: childhood. Children, after all, become future citizens. To consider the themes of identity formation, childhood, and citizenship, we will situate the concept of French republican identity in its socio-historical context through questions such as: What are the foundations of French identity? How has this identity historically been shaped, and is it open to all groups? In contemporary French society, how does one reconcile republicanism with increasing pluralism? We will then analyze several recent coming of age narratives from a variety of genres—novels, autobiographies, short stories, graphic novels, documentaries, and fiction films—that depict youth in France and the broader French-speaking world. These sources challenge the notion of a unique French identity and instead emphasize diversity, fractures, and contestation through their representations of friendship, love, school, rebellion, injustice and shame. Class Notes: FULFILLS GALLATIN DEGREE REQUIREMENT: HUMANITIES.
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