Course Description: This seminar will explore the historiography and history of the French Revolution through books, paintings, music and film. The Revolution of 1789 transformed not only French society but also European politics. The revolutionary years turned a people against their king, parishioner against priest, soldier against army, neighbor against neighbor. The Revolution released potent new ideals of political participation and social mobility, and unleashed two decades of warfare in Europe. It marked a decisive and violent rupture between the Old and the New, between a closed world of absolute monarchical power and the chaotic swell of modern mass politics. Students will explore the fierce debates about the cultural, political and economic origins of the Revolution of 1789, and will seek to answer the question, was the Revolution inevitable? As a class, we will examine the crucial turns in the Revolution—from the Tennis Court Oath to the bloody months of the Terror. We will investigate the legacy of the symbols, rituals and language of republican culture, as well as the new languages of art and music that developed from those tense if heady years. We will assess the consequences of the revolutionary moment for those groups not included in its triumphal rhetoric of liberty, equality and fraternity (women, workers, blacks). Finally, we will ask how the Revolution of 1789 has been remembered, commemorated, and reactivated throughout the more than two hundred years that have passed since the Bastille fell.
Anatole France, The Gods Will Have Blood.
Marie-Jeanne Roland, Memoirs of Madame Roland: A Heroine of the French