Autumn 2017 Programs

In Autumn 2017, the Center in Paris will host four study abroad programs for undergraduate students. The faculty and their courses are listed below:

Classics of Social and Political Thought

James Wilson (Political Science) - Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris I
In this class you will read, discuss, reflect on, and write about a few remarkable and enduring works, all addressing, in their various ways, the question of how humans ought to conduct their lives together. We attend to these texts for a number of reasons. We aim to develop our ability to understand and evaluate arguments about how social institutions ought to be organized, and how individuals ought to live. We also aim to develop our ability to make such arguments ourselves. The texts we read are systematic and subtle. Understanding them will therefore also require us to learn how to read, interpret, and respond to large, detailed, and complex written works.

We will make use of our Paris surroundings to better understand the themes of the course through site visits.

The skills the course aims to develop are all well worth having. But I hope this course serves to do more than just sharpen our intellectual skill set, as important as that is. Our subject matter, again, is how we ought to live. The authors we will read aim to change the way their readers think about this subject. As staggeringly ambitious as it may sound, the authors apparently aim to change how their readers actually live. We are among those readers. While we may not be persuaded by any of the authors, we may nevertheless, in accepting the invitation to think and write seriously about these issues, actually change the way we live. As staggeringly ambitious as it may sound, we may begin the process of actually living better.

Jennifer Pitts (Political Science) - Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris II
This is the second course in the Social Science Core sequence, “Classics of Social and Political Thought.” Our purpose in this class is to reflect on a series of enduring texts that take up questions of how human beings ought to live in community with one another. We do this through close readings of the texts, in discussion together, and in written argument. The aim will be both to strengthen your ability to analyze and articulate moral and political arguments, and to deepen your own reflections about how we should conduct our lives.

This segment focuses on the development, in early modern political thought, of conceptions of sovereignty, the social contract, and the rights and obligations of citizens and governments. We begin with the foundational social contract theories of Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. We then turn in the third week to major writings of, and responses to, the French Revolution.

The Royalist Hobbes fled to Paris in 1640 to escape the civil war in England and remained in exile for eleven years. Rousseau, born in Geneva, wrote major works including the Social Contract, in and around Paris, a city with which he had a deeply ambivalent relationship. We will make use of our Paris surroundings to better understand the themes of the course through visits to the palace at Versailles and sites of the French Revolution. In anticipation of the third course in the sequence, we make an overnight trip to Normandy to visit the family chateau where Alexis de Tocqueville lived and wrote. The trip will include a visit to several sites connected with the Normandy beach landings of June 1944.

Adom Getachew (Political Science) - Classics of Social and Political Thought in Paris III
This is the third component of the Social Science Core sequence, “Classics of Social and Political Thought” where we will focus on political and social theory in the 19th and 20th centuries. Following the discussion of the French Revolution in part two of the course, this class explores how ideas of liberty and equality are taken up in the age of emancipation and democracy. Our course will particularly focus on two towering 19th century thinkers—Alexis de Tocqueville and Karl Marx who in different ways examined the possibilities and limits of the post-revolutionary age. In the third week, we will turn to the 20th century and to themes of gender, race and colonialism with the aim of interrogating how demands of liberty and equality shift when gendered subjugation (Simone de Beauvoir) as well as colonial subordination and racial oppression (Frantz Fanon) are made central to political theory.

European Civilization (taught in English)

Frederick de Armas (Romance Languages and Literatures) - European Civilization in Paris I
This course will center in the art, literature and culture of the France’s Renaissance and Baroque periods, spanning two centuries, the 16th and 17th. But it will also include two other places: Italy as the origins of the Renaissance, and Spain, the kingdom that was constantly vying with France as inheritor of the Italian Renaissance and as a center for power and culture. Indeed, one way in which France and Spain vied with each other was through a series of wars and spheres of influence in the Italian peninsula. Thus, Italy was a place where the beauty of Renaissance art and architecture contrasted with the devastation caused by wars.

Arnaud Coulombel (Center in Paris) - European Civilization in Paris II
In this course, 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 in particular social and political order of the Ancien Regime, the rise of secularization and the Enlightenment. Although we will concentrate on French texts, particular attention will be paid to French relations to other cultures, European (British, German, etc.) and beyond.

David Rodowick (Cinema and Media Studies) - European Civilization in Paris III
This course is an introduction to the history of European civilization during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will read and discuss a number of historical, philosophical, political, and literary texts that shaped culture and intellectual history in the modern era. Particular attention will be paid to the traditions of liberal and socialist thought, the cultural changes associated with industrial modernity, the transformation of urban life, the rise of modernism, and the rethinking of Enlightenment ideals. While we will consider the broad European context, the course will give some emphasis to French texts and to the place of Paris as one of the great intellectual and artistic centers of European modernity.

European Civilization (taught in French)

Robert Morrissey (Romance Languages and Literatures) - Civilisation Européenne I
Cette série de cours est un hybride : à la fois une introduction à l’histoire de la civilisation européenne depuis le Moyen Age et une vue d’ensemble de l’histoire de France durant cette période (avec un intérêt particulier porté à la région parisienne). Notre objectif sera double : d’une part, intégrer étude de textes et découverte de Paris et sa région; d’autre part pratiquer le métier d’historien de la culture. Pour ce faire, nous analyserons lors de nos quatre réunions hebdomadaires des documents historiques ainsi que des oeuvres littéraires, philosophiques et artistiques. Nous complèterons notre étude de la civilisation française par des conférences sur site de musées, monuments, monastères, et châteaux.

Nos cours auront lieu tels qu’ils apparaissent sur votre emploi du temps. Je situerai nos textes dans leur contexte historique, mais la majeure partie des cours sera consacrée à une analyse des textes qui fera appel à votre participation orale. Les jours d’excursion, notre cours aura lieu ‘sur le terrain’ plutôt que dans la salle de cours.

Robert Morrissey (Romance Languages and Literatures) - Civilisation Européenne II
[same description as above]

Jean Balsamo (Université de Reims) - Civilisation Européenne III
Ce cours de civilisation combine l’étude des humanités à l’histoire des idées. Il a pour objet la culture européenne de l’époque moderne et une définition culturelle de l’Europe (1840-2000). Il ne consistera pas en un catalogue d’œuvres littéraires, philosophiques ou artistiques, ni en une succession de monographies d’écrivains, de penseurs ou d’artistes, classés par écoles et par nations, il ne suivra pas un canon préétabli de grands noms et d’œuvres. Son but est de donner aux étudiants de l’université de Chicago, quelle que soit leur spécialité, les références historiques, les notions et les clés qui leur permettront de comprendre la conception de la culture, en particulier dans sa dimension littéraire, telle qu’elle s’est développée en Europe et telle qu’elle définit la civilisation européenne, sur un mode toujours problématique et conflictuel. Structuré autour de trois grandes perspectives (la figure et le rôle de l’intellectuel, la relation entre la France et l’Allemagne, la question de la violence), le cours reposera sur la lecture et l’analyse de textes de différents genres (essais, discours, œuvres de fiction) et de différentes origines (française, allemande, italienne, espagnole etc.,…), à travers lesquels ces questions ont été développées de façon novatrice et déterminante.

Le cours est en français ; les textes, fournis, seront étudiés en version française, avec référence, le cas échéant, à la langue originale.


Steven Shevell (Psychology) - Sensation and Perception
What we see and hear depends on energy that enters the eyes and ears, but what we actually experience – perception – follows from human neural responses. This course focuses on visual and auditory phenomena, including basic percepts (for example, acuity, brightness, color, loudness, pitch) and also more complex percepts such as motion and object recognition. Biological underpinnings of perception are an integral part of the course.

Peggy Mason (Neuroscience) - Neuroanatomy
In this course, we will use an understanding of development in order to understand the neuroanatomy of the adult vertebrate nervous system. This understanding will be solidified by dissections of mammalian, fish and bird brains as well as a trip to see myriad brains at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle. In the second half of the course, neuroanatomical adaptations specific to particular animals will be examined in the context of critical environmental and ecological factors. Examples include postural control in sloths, vision in marine animals and raptors, and the control of muscles of facial expression across mammalian species.

Clifton Ragsdale (Neuroscience) - Evolution and the Nervous System
Evolutionary neuroscience has traditionally focused on the neural bases of animal behavior (neuroethology) and employed the methods of comparative anatomy, cellular neurophysiology and behavioral neuropsychology. This course will approach neuroethology from a modern evolutionary perspective, one that integrates findings from genomics, molecular developmental biology and paleontology with insights from neuroethology. Our exploration will include the controversies over the evolutionary origin of neurons and centralized brains, the independent solutions across taxa to processing ecologically important sensory information, and recent insights into the evolution of the neocortex.