Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in France (1880-1914)

Module Code: LN220-15
Module Name: Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in France (1880-1914)
Module Coordinator: Dr Clément Dessy
Term 2 Time: TBC
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

The 'Belle Époque', as it is commonly called, often resonates with images of World Fairs, the increase of transport facilities and the recklessness of social elites. At the end of the nineteenth century, the concept of cosmopolitanism resurfaces to characterize a certain attitude to life and perception of the world. Though it has inspired French thinkers at various moments since the Middle Ages, especially when the Enlightenment spread its universalist ideals across Europe, cosmopolitan ideas become more commonly debated in France from the 1880's at a time when both cultural nationalism and antisemitism develop into their current definitions and the French Republic extends its colonial empire. Despite appearances, those opposite trends went hand in hand. The period comprised between the end of the 19th century and the First World War is therefore central to understanding the tensions that will mark the political and cultural history of the twentieth century: between openness to foreign cultures and conservative nationalism, elitist cosmopolitanism and workers' internationalism, universalism and colonial imperialism, cultural attractiveness and hegemony. This module intends to explore these dimensions from historical, political and cultural points of view.

By leaning on theoretical lectures and text-reading seminars, this module will invite the students:
- to link political and cultural history and observe how artists and writers played an active part in those debates;
- to refine their perception and go beyond the common opposition between cosmopolitanism and nationalism;
- to understand the artificiality of the concept of nation as well as the cultural domination that can be reflected by definitions of cosmopolitanism;
- to describe and analyse representations of cultural and national identities.

Outline syllabus

Week 1 Lecture: A World of World Fairs and the Creation of National Identities
Seminar: Discussion on definitions and iconic material on World Fairs
Week 2 Lecture: ‘The Barbarian Invasions’: The Fear of Foreign Cultures and the Rise of Nationalism
Seminar: Texts by Maurice Barrès, Remy de Gourmont or Ferdinand Brunetière
Week 3 Lecture: Paris, a Global Cultural Capital
Seminar: Theoretical sources (Pascale Casanova, David Harvey)
Week 4 Lecture: Modern Style and Representations of Cosmopolitan Aesthetics
Seminar : Extracts from Paul Bourget's, Joris-Karl Huysmans's, Goncourt brothers' works
Week 5 Lecture: Dreyfus Affair and Cultural Nationalism
Seminar: Extracts on literary / cultural responses to the Affair (from Émile Zola, contributors of La Revue blanche, Édouard Drumont, Charles Maurras…)
Week 6 [Reading Week]
Week 7 Lecture: An Alternative to Global France: Belgium 1900
Week 8 Lecture: Cosmopolitanism vs. Internationalism
Seminar: Compared analysis between texts on cosmopolitanism and socialist ideals of internationalism
Week 9 Lecture: Colonialism and Empire
Seminar: Extracts from André Gide's and Guy de Maupassant's works
Week 10 Lecture: Germs of European Ideals and the Idea of Universal Languages
Seminar: Discussion of founding texts on European ideals (ex. Louis Dumont-Wilden) and universal languages (ex. Guillaume Apollinaire, Jules Verne...)

Primary Texts

An anthology of texts will be provided to the students.

Assessment Method:

50% - Assessed work (one essay of between 2,000 and 2,500 words in length)
50% - Formal examination