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David Birdsong, Chair 201 W 21ST STREET STOP B7600, HRH 2.114A, AUSTIN, TX 78712 • 512-471-5531

Spring 2006


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35485 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
HRH 2.112

Course Description

Paris is a lure and alluring. Like an artist's model, she is both seductive and evasive. This city that has dominated Western Civilization for almost 1000 years has sat for her portrait in every generation. In our course we shall study her portraits by various artists in various media. Our time span will be limited to the last 250 years when the world paid homage to her beauty, power and creativity.

The course will rapidly set Paris in its geographical, ecological [they still grow and make wine in Paris!], political and cultural milieu and prepare the class to appreciate this city from the various perspectives of the media which have portrayed the city.

We shall give attention to the rich architectural splendors of the city, following the Seine River as it unfolds the new national Library, the new Opera, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Conciergerie, Place de la Concorde, The Invalides [Napoleon's Tomb], the Arche de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower etc. watching the city spread in Baron de Haussman's master plan.

We shall read masterpieces of literature set in Paris and describing its splendors and miseries by French writers. Molière and Louis Mercier provide the first intense descriptions of their beloved city followed by Balzac who takes a cooler approach. We shall certainly read Baudelaire's Paris Spleen capturing the beginnings of city modernity. [Sidewalks were first created in Paris and boulevards with islands of trees and benches!] And how can one not read Proust's Swann in Love as the hero plunges into modern city nightlife desperately seeking his mistress. Zola will take us to the underbelly of the city with L'Assommoir. Apollinaire will take us by the hand to see his city as a poet does in "Zone.". The French [Fascist] writer Drieu de la Rochelle captures the drug culture of the disillusioned Parisian veterans of World War I and II in Will o' the Wisp.The Paris of late 20th century will be seen best in Reza's one act play Art which teases out the absurdity of life in the City of Light.

But we shall mix into this gallery of great writings, the joy of music. Popular songs dedicated to Paris sung by Edith Piaf and others. We shall watch Puccini's La Bohème and Il Tabarro. But we shall certainly hear American in Paris by Gershwin.

Fabulous films set in Paris will bring you into the heart of 19th century Paris, Les Enfants du paradis, Gervaise, and Paris 1900. The famous French directors' films set in Paris of the second half of the 20th century like Breathless, Zazie dans le metro, and The Fire Within. We shall see the sordid lifestyle of the city in Belle de jour and the contemporary Paris of many ethnicities in M. Ibrahim and Hate.

Our eyes shall be dazzled by the portraits of Paris by the painters of neo-classicism and the Realists. But it is the Impressionists with their rich varied palettes that focus on Parisian life, its streets, people and monuments that draws out attention - Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, and the modernists Utrillo, Chagall and so many others.

Nor have we forgotten the photographers: Nadar, Marville and Atget who saved old Paris on their glass plates, magnificent works today that dazzle by their sensitivity. We shall see the rich cavorting at the horse races by young Lartigue, and then the masters of the 20th century, Doiseau, Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis, Andre Kertesz and that master of women of the night: Brassai.

Whoever wants to see Paris in all her many portraits, moods and mentalities and appreciate the meaning of the word METROPOLIS, then this course on Paris awaits you.

Grading Policy

80% of the course will be based on 4 papers totaling 18 pages.
One paper must be entirely rewritten when returned.

20% on midterm and Final exam

Class participation is essential.


Alistair Horne - Seven Ages of Paris


Balzac, Sarrasine - short story
Baudelaire, Selection Prose poems from Paris Spleen
Zola, L'Assommoir
Proust, Swann in Love, short novel
Schmitt, M. Ibrahim, short story

Molière, The Would Be Gentleman
Reza, Art - one act play
Labiche - Dust in Your Eyes
Feydeau, My Wife's Dead Mother - one act play

Apollinaire, Zone - a beautiful short poem

Films, Paintings, Photographs, Architectural Monuments, Classical and Popular Music


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