Studies in French cultural and intellectual history
Bernard, Lauren S.
Sherman, Daniel J.
Master of Arts
Four topics in the cultural and intellectual history of France are presented. The first is a comparative study examining the relationship between seventeenth-century philosophy and literature. It argues that elements of scientific rationalism found their way into contemporary literature, as evidenced in the work of Moliere. The second essay examines the writings of Hippolyte Taine and of Gustave Le Bon. The paper argues that the synthesis of their ideas and the popularity of their writings helped to transform the nineteenth-century French passion for "scientificity" into an obsession with race. The third study explores early twentieth-century French perceptions of race and demonstrates how media images of colonial peoples profoundly influenced the way in which ordinary French citizens understood race and difference. The fourth and final paper examines the importance of the department store in French women's lives during the interwar period and argues that it served as the crucial link between their public and private spheres.