Spring 2018 Programs

The Center in Paris will host five programs for undergraduate students in Spring 2018, including the new Russian Civilization in Paris program. The faculty and their courses are listed below.


Rich Kron (Astronomy and Astrophysics) - Stars
The story of how stars work - how they shine, how they evolve with time, their internal structure, and their role in creating heavier elements out of lighter elements - involves both the macroscopic and the microscopic laws of nature. This course will introduce the basic physical concepts, including the roles of gravity, pressure, radiation, and nuclear reactions. On the observational side, astronomers can measure the masses, luminosities, sizes, and temperatures of stars, properties that theoretical models successfully account for. The models tell us the ages of the stars: with that information, we can assemble a picture of how the galaxy of stars around us has come to be the way it is.

Angela Olinto (Astronomy and Astrophysics) - Galaxies
Galaxies have been called “island universes,” places where stars are concentrated, where they are born, and where they die. Galaxies are dynamic systems: they change with time and gravity shapes the orbit of each star within its galaxy.

The Sun is one star among the 100 billion in the Milky Way, each moving on an orbit that reflects the distribution of all the other stars.

This course will trace the modern picture for the formation of galaxies and the stars in them. It will also review aggregates of galaxies, how galaxies move on orbits around each other at this higher level of the hierarchy of structure, and how we arrive at the conclusion that most of the matter in the Universe is in an exotic form (dark matter).

We will build on the material from Stars PHSC 12700-99 to much larger systems – island universes or galaxies.

We will learn about our Milky Way Galaxy and other types of Galaxies.

Jacob Bean (Astronomy and Astrophysics) - Exoplanets

European Civilization

Philippe Desan (Romance Languages and Literatures) - European Civilization in Paris I
This course is a hybrid: at once an introduction to European Civilization since the late Middle Ages and an overview of French history. We will have two objectives: on the one hand, to master the historian’s craft; on the other to integrate textual analysis with the discovery of a French history and culture. To do so, we will read historical documents and ‘classic’ texts, discuss and debate them in our four weekly meetings.

Larry Norman (Romance Languages and Literatures) - European Civilization in Paris II
We will closely read and discuss a number of historical, philosophical, political and literary texts that have shaped the history of ideas in Europe. We will consider the social, intellectual, and political order of the Ancien Régime, the rise of secularization and the Enlightenment, the political and cultural implications of the French Revolution. Although we will concentrate on French texts, attention will be paid to French relations to other cultures — European (British, German, etc.) and beyond (the Islamic world, the Americas) — with a focus on contending notions of cosmopolitanism, relativism, nationalism and internationalism.

Arnaud Coulombel (Center in Paris) - European Civilization in Paris III
This course continues your introduction to the History of European Civilization during the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. We will explore some of the main social, political and intellectual questions that shaped the modern era, from the trajectories of liberalism and capitalist society, to the rethinking of European Civilization after its near-implosion during World War One and the Holocaust. The readings are derived from history, literature, anthropology, philosophy, and other disciplines in order to give an integrated social, cultural, political, and intellectual history of these two turbulent centuries.


Raoul Moati (Philosophy) - French Existentialism
Right after WWII a new way of living emerges in France: Existentialism. Existentialism becomes the name for the feeling of the Freedom recovered after France occupation by Germany. But more than a simple revolution in customs it lies on a new metaphysics of the human experience. This new metaphysics of Human’s finitude is popularized by Sartre’s manifesto: “Existentialism is a Humanism”.

The main goal of this course will be to introduce students to French Existentialism in taking as a center of our investigation Sartre’s philosophy. We will try to clarify its main origins and concepts in insisting first on the meaning of the philosophical conflict between Christian Existentialism (inspired by Kierkegaard) and Atheist Existentialism (inspired by Feuerbach and Kojeve). We will also insist on the importance of Heidegger for the formation of the French Existentialism.

Once this background clarified we will focus on Sartre’s philosophy and on Sartre’s relations to literature throughout Sartre’s art of portraying from an existentialist point of view and methodology, some major French writers like Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Genet and Flaubert. These investigations will give us a privileged key in order to make sense of the Existentialism fundamental claim following which Human life must be understood as an existential engagement towards the Impossible goal of being God. From an existentialist point of view as a matter of fact: God is no longer the principle of existence (as it is in Classical Metaphysics and Theology) but the Goal that finite existence tries to embody in vain.

Katherine Taylor (Art History) - The Creative Destruction of Paris
How should the fabled Paris cityscape – densely-packed, low-rise, and self-contained within its egg-shaped frame – modernize and update? How did a city of neighborhoods become a centralized imperial capital with citywide linkages and services, for instance under the most famous of urban renewers, Baron Haussmann, in the 1850s and 60s? How did Haussmann’s cityscape respond to conflicting urban and architectural models, partly developed in Paris itself, in the twentieth century? How will it retain its historic, touristic cachet as one of the world’s most beautiful cityscapes while remaining economically competitive and productive in today’s “global city” competition? With new towers in the works and plans to open out the city to its suburban hinterland, this is an important debate in Paris now. We’ll explore these questions both on the streets and in the classroom. Comfortable walking shoes and a hooded raincoat or poncho are course requirements.

Dominique Bluher (Cinema and Media Studies) - Chris Marker
Chris Marker (1921-2012) is one of the most influential and important filmmakers to emerge in the post-war era in France. Yet he remains relatively unknown to a wider audience. This course will take advantage of a large exhibition and retrospective hosted by the Cinémathèque française in Paris from May to July 2018.

Marker’s multifaceted work encompasses writing, photography, filmmaking, videography, gallery installation, television, and digital multimedia. He directed over 60 films and is known foremost for his ‘essay films,’ a hybrid of documentary and personal reflection which he invigorated if not ‘invented’ with films like Lettre de Sibérie (Letter from Siberia, 1958) or Sans soleil (Sunless, 1983). His most famous film, La Jetée (1962), his only (science) fiction film made up almost entirely of black-and-white still photographs, was the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995). In 1990, he created his first multi-media installation Zapping Zone, and in 1997 he experimented with the format of the CD-Rom to create a multi-layered, multimedia memoir (Immemory). In 2008, he continued his venture into digital spaces with Ouvroir, realized on the platform of Second Life.

Marker was a passionate traveler who documented the journeys he took, the people he met, and revolutionary upheavals at home and afar. We will follow the journey proposed by the exhibition exploring Marker’s travels through time, space, and media, during which we will also encounter artists with whom he crossed paths, with whom he collaborated, or who were inspired by his work.


Jitka Stehnova (Mathematics) - Introduction to p-Groups
This course is an introduction to p-groups, which play an important role in solvable groups and Lie Algebras. Topics will include conjugacy classes and proofs of the Sylow Theorems; orbits, stabilizers; examples of small order p-groups (including abelian ones); nilpotent groups (upper and lower central series); direct, semi-direct, and central products; Frattini subgroup and generalized commutators (x, y, z lemma, for example); characteristic subgroups; Fitting subgroup; elements of order 5 acting on 2-groups; groups of order 86, 400; groups of order less than 1, 000, 000.

John Boller (Mathematics) - Geometry of Matrix Groups
In this course, we consider the classical compact Lie groups, that is, various compact subgroups of GL(n,C) and SL(n,C). This course will count as a substitution for MATH 25500 for purposes of the B.S. in Mathematics. With appropriate advance notification and some supplementary work, the course may also be counted as a substitution for MATH 25900 for degrees with Honors in Mathematics.

Takis Souganidis (Mathematics) - Introduction to Fourier Analysis

Russian Civilization

Faith Hillis (History) - Russian Civilization I
Welcome to Russian Civilization! Over the course of this class, we will explore the diverse peoples, influences, and cultures that have shaped what we now think of as Russia. This part of the course will cover early Russian history through the end of the Old Regime. Over the course of our three weeks together, we will encounter Russian culture through readings, in-class activities and lectures, and several field trips.

In the tradition of University of Chicago civilization classes, we will focus on reading and discussing primary source materials, which range from memoirs and private correspondence to novels; from official edicts to visual culture. Although I will provide short lectures to contextualize your readings, you will not be expected to memorize battle dates or the reigns of monarchs. Rather, we will work on learning to read primary sources intelligently and critically, analyzing and evaluating our authors’ ideas, and creating our own logical and coherent arguments in class discussion and in written papers. I hope that you will emerge from this course a stronger writer, thinker, and presenter with a deeper understanding of Russian culture.

Robert Bird (Slavic Languages and Literatures, Cinema and Media Studies) - Russian Civilization II
Welcome to Russian Civ part 2! Over the course of the quarter, we will continue our exploration of the Russian lands from 1917 to the Putin era, exploring the diverse influences and peoples that have shaped Russian culture.

The syllabus is organized around key dates, from 1917 to 2018, which will allow us to focus on nodal points in the development of modern Russian cultural history. Every class period we will introduce the date and trace the historical and cultural vectors which it gathers through background readings, historical documents, key images, and works in other media.

In the tradition of University of Chicago civilization classes, we will mostly be reading and discussing primary source materials, which range from memoirs and private correspondence to novels; from official edicts to fables and graffiti. You will not be expected to memorize large numbers of historical trivia. Rather, we will work on learning to read primary sources intelligently and critically, analyzing and evaluating our authors’ ideas, and creating our own arguments in class discussion and in written papers. I hope that you will emerge from this course a stronger writer, thinker, and presenter with a deeper understanding of Russian culture.

Boris Maslov (Comparative Literature) - Occidentalism: Russian mythologies of the West
Ever since the dawn of nationalism in the Romantic age, Russian writers, artists, and intellectuals regarded “the West” with a mixture of suspicion and awe. Over the nineteenth and the twentieth century, quite a few of them worked in Western Europe for extended periods of time, whether of their own accord (Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Eisenstein) or compelled by a political predicament (Prokofiev, Bunin, Nabokov, Brodsky). This class will serve as a forum for an intensive engagement with texts and artifacts, many of which produced by Russians in Western Europe, that attest to a pervasive Russian cultural mythology of “the West.”