Summer 2021 - HUM 340 D900

Great Cities in Their Time (4)

Paris: City of Desires

Class Number: 3419

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 1:00 PM – 4:50 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An exploration of the cultural and intellectual accomplishments of a specific city that achieved prominence in a particular time period, and had substantial impact and influence on human civilization. Examines the political, social, religious, and cultural factors that help to explain a city's significance and investigates the achievements of its citizens. Students may repeat this course for further credit under a different topic. Breadth-Humanities.


Paris: City of Revolutions, City of Desires 

Few cities in Europe have attracted such contrasting emotions as Paris, a city whose imaginary captures ideas of high culture, barricades and revolutions, spectacle and urban renewal, bohemian life, fashion and urban desires.

In this course, we will examine the historical and social transformations that produced Paris as Europe’s “capital of modernity.” We will examine the representation of the city in novels, poetry, and visual culture through the lens of urban history and critical theory and with a focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. In our discussions, we will consider the importance of turning points in Parisian history in the constitution of social space but also the way in which space acts, in turn, as an agent of the unrolling of history. Our readings will be interdisciplinary and organized more syncretically than chronologically but we will also follow a broad-based timeline to understand how different events set the stage for major turning points in the social life of the city.

The seminar has been adapted to the REMOTE TEACHING module. We will all work to build a vibrant online community to make the best of the current circumstances. 

Topics will include: Parisian social stratification and segregation; money and consumerism; revolutionary politics and the barricades; Parisian microcosms (e.g., les quartiers, boarding houses, food market, department stores, prisons, prostitution, urban transportation, les cafés, the sewers, boulevards and “the street”); antisemitism and the Affaire Dreyfus; the poet in the city; artists and Bohemian Paris; Hausmann’s urban transformation during the Second Empire; the spectacle of the global city (Universal Expositions and imperial networks) and the new architecture (the Eiffel Tower); Paris through the lens of painters (Fauvism, Impressionism, Surrealism); new modes of vision (Art Deco advertising, technologies of vision, shop windows, photography and cinema); women and liberated sexualities (les parisiennes); cabarets and entertainment; Black subjectivities in Paris; the 1968s students’ riots and contemporary riots around class and race; and the disempowered minorities of the Parisian banlieues.

TEACHING MODE: Synchronous lecture – recorded.

This seminar requires weekly about three-hour contact “in class” for lecture and discussion. The remaining weekly hour will be used by students for self-study and assignments on Canvas. The reduced contact hours are meant to lessen the impact of ‘Zoom fatigue’. We will also have breaks for coffee or just to rest eyes and ears. We will all work to build a vibrant online community to make the best of the current circumstances.


At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Gain an understanding of the role of the economic, political, and social history of Paris in the formation of the built environment of the city, with an emphasis on the 19th and 20th
  2. Examine the role of literature and art in responding to the geopolitics of urban transformation in the age of modernity and in revealing otherwise hidden historical geographies.
  3. Examine the role of technologies of vision and mass culture in constructing an imaginary of Paris as City of Lights.
  4. Examine the relationship between architecture and urban mythologies.
  5. Examine the role of Parisian urban space in the formation of subjectivity and social identities (the flâneur, the dandy, liberated women, the bourgeois, the masses, Black culture (or Paris noir), and minorities).



  • Class discussion through Zoom 10%
  • Quizzes X2 (10% each) 20%
  • Canvas Discussion Posts X5 (5% each) 25%
  • Literature Paper 15%
  • Final Portfolio (includes 2 short papers (4 pages each) to be submitted BY the end of classes: a) Paper examining one event or issue from history/politics. b) Paper analyzing one Parisian micro-space.) 30%



  • Victor Hugo, Les Misérables [1862], Tr. C. Donougher                           Penguin, 2015
    (we will read selected chapters)
    ISBN-13: 978-0143107569 (e-book available)
  • Émile Zola, The Ladies’ Paradise [Au Bonheur des Dames, 1883]           Oxford World’s Classics, 2008
    ISBN-13 : 978-0199536900 (e-book available)
  • Faïza Guène, Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow                                                       Mariner Books, 2006
    ISBN-13: 978-0156030489 (e-book available)

Canvas readings (provided):

  • Excerpts from fiction (Balzac, Zola, Flaubert, Proust, Colette, Anaïs Nin, Raymond Queneau) and selected poems (Baudelaire and Apollinaire).
  • Articles from social, cultural, and critical theory (e.g., Marx, W. Benjamin, Le Corbusier, Roland Barthes).

Film Screenings:

  • The Dreamers (dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003)
  • Zazie dans le Métro (dir. Louis Malle, 1960)
  • La Haine (dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods, but we will continue to have in-person experiential activities for a selection of courses.  Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning ( or 778-782-3112).