Famous French Figures: Celebrity and the Making of French Identity (HISTORY 235G, HISTORY 335G)
How do we think historically about something as fleeting as fame? In this seminar we¿ll engage with the biographies of eight famous French figures, exploring how each of these celebrated lives influenced popular perceptions of what it has meant to be French over the past two centuries. Questions we will ask include: How and why are public figures remembered and memorialized differently at different times and in different places? Who does and does not qualify for the role of French celebrity, and why? What work must biographers do to frame something as complex as a human life into a coherent narrative? What is gained and lost in approaching a given era through a close examination of one individual? Most central to this course: How do people create and contest their cultural and national identities through the collective celebration of particular individuals? We will study the lives and times of three men and five women: Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Edouard Manet, Sarah Bernhardt, Josephine Baker, Coco Chanel, Albert Camus, and Francoise Sagan.