AMS 370 • AMERICA, FRANCE, AND THE PROBLEM OF RACE
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
France and America have obvious and irresistible parallels. An intimate confidante of the "leading patriots" of the French Revolution and a first-hand observer of its events, Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography of a continuity of ideals and energy in the American and French Revolutions. "The appeal to the rights of man, which had been made in the U. S. was taken up by France, first of the European nations. So inscrutable is the arrangement of causes and consequences in this world that a two-penny duty on tea, unjustly imposed in a sequestered part of it, changes the condition of all its inhabitants." Sixty years later in his 1848 preface to the twelfth edition of Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville challenged his countrymen to find instruction in the principles "on which the American constitutions rest." In this course, we will accept these invitations to consider the intellectual and cultural history of France and the United States together, concentrating on "the problem of race" from French and American revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century to the Civil Rights and anti-colonial movements of the middle of the twentieth century. The course will be comparative. It will ask that we search for similarities and differences in how each country addresses the contradictions between freedom and slavery. We will also compare and contrast evolving notions of race, difference, and national identity in the thought and experience of the two countries. In addition to being comparative, the course will also ask us to dwell in places that dramatize the intersection of French and American culture. The two central foci for this discussion will be "The Haitian Revolution" and "Creole New Orleans." Attention to these two "New World" locales challenges the claims of the United States and France to national, racial and cultural consistency and widens the traditional boundaries of "American Studies." We will focus our discussion around primary literary texts and historical documents; however, we will also read portions of secondary works for context and interpretation.
Grades will be assessed on the following basis: 2 short essays (3 pages) 15% each; archival research write-up (2 pages) and presentation (15%); Final research paper (8-10 pages) 40%
Texts may include the following: James Baldwin, selected essays; Aimé Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism; Return to My Native Land; J. Hector St. Jean de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer; Joan Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods; George Washington Cable, The Grandissimes; C. L. R. James, Black Jacobins And a course reader with shorter readings