Paris: Humanities

Humanities students visit of the gardens of Versailles (Winter 2018)
Early App Deadline: 
Monday, April 23, 2018
Final App Deadline: 
Monday, November 5, 2018
Language Requirement: 
Kylie Poulin
Core Credits: 
Arts Core

The College’s Spring Humanities program in Paris provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to devote themselves intensively to the humanities at the University of Chicago’s Center in Paris. This is a broadly conceived program, designed not for students from specific majors, but for all students, regardless of major, with an interest in the humanities and a desire to pursue this interest in the capital of France, a city rich in cultural resources and artistic traditions. This program normally includes upper-level courses in philosophy, art history and another humanistic discipline such as literature, music or linguistics. Program participants will also take a French language course, which runs at a normal pace through the quarter and is designed to help students connect with French (and Parisian) culture.

Apart from classroom work, the spring Humanities program offers a series of excursions to sites of artistic and historic interest within and in the vicinity of Paris. Indeed Paris itself, with its wealth of museums, libraries and theaters, its lively art and literary scene, its rich traditions of creation and critique, plays a central role in the program and students will be expected to make full use of its cultural resources.


Raoul Moati (Philosophy) – French Existentialism
Right after WWII a new way of living emerges in France: Existentialism. Existentialism becomes the name for the feeling of the Freedom recovered after France occupation by Germany. But more than a simple revolution in customs it lies on a new metaphysics of the human experience. This new metaphysics of Human’s finitude is popularized by Sartre’s manifesto: “Existentialism is a Humanism”.

The main goal of this course will be to introduce students to French Existentialism in taking as a center of our investigation Sartre’s philosophy. We will try to clarify its main origins and concepts in insisting first on the meaning of the philosophical conflict between Christian Existentialism (inspired by Kierkegaard) and Atheist Existentialism (inspired by Feuerbach and Kojeve). We will also insist on the importance of Heidegger for the formation of the French Existentialism.

Once this background clarified we will focus on Sartre’s philosophy and on Sartre’s relations to literature throughout Sartre’s art of portraying from an existentialist point of view and methodology, some major French writers like Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Genet and Flaubert. These investigations will give us a privileged key in order to make sense of the Existentialism fundamental claim following which Human life must be understood as an existential engagement towards the Impossible goal of being God. From an existentialist point of view as a matter of fact: God is no longer the principle of existence (as it is in Classical Metaphysics and Theology) but the Goal that finite existence tries to embody in vain.

Katherine Taylor (Art History) – The Creative Destruction of Paris
How should the fabled Paris cityscape – densely-packed, low-rise, and self-contained within its egg-shaped frame – modernize and update? How did a city of neighborhoods become a centralized imperial capital with citywide linkages and services, for instance under the most famous of urban renewers, Baron Haussmann, in the 1850s and 60s? How did Haussmann’s cityscape respond to conflicting urban and architectural models, partly developed in Paris itself, in the twentieth century? How will it retain its historic, touristic cachet as one of the world’s most beautiful cityscapes while remaining economically competitive and productive in today’s “global city” competition? With new towers in the works and plans to open out the city to its suburban hinterland, this is an important debate in Paris now. We’ll explore these questions both on the streets and in the classroom. Comfortable walking shoes and a hooded raincoat or poncho are course requirements.

Dominique Bluher (Cinema and Media Studies) – Chris Marker
Chris Marker (1921-2012) is one of the most influential and important filmmakers to emerge in the post-war era in France. Yet he remains relatively unknown to a wider audience. This course will take advantage of a large exhibition and retrospective hosted by the Cinémathèque française in Paris from May to July 2018.

Marker’s multifaceted work encompasses writing, photography, filmmaking, videography, gallery installation, television, and digital multimedia. He directed over 60 films and is known foremost for his ‘essay films,’ a hybrid of documentary and personal reflection which he invigorated if not ‘invented’ with films like Lettre de Sibérie (Letter from Siberia, 1958) or Sans soleil (Sunless, 1983). His most famous film, La Jetée (1962), his only (science) fiction film made up almost entirely of black-and-white still photographs, was the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995). In 1990, he created his first multi-media installation Zapping Zone, and in 1997 he experimented with the format of the CD-Rom to create a multi-layered, multimedia memoir (Immemory). In 2008, he continued his venture into digital spaces with Ouvroir, realized on the platform of Second Life.

Marker was a passionate traveler who documented the journeys he took, the people he met, and revolutionary upheavals at home and afar. We will follow the journey proposed by the exhibition exploring Marker’s travels through time, space, and media, during which we will also encounter artists with whom he crossed paths, with whom he collaborated, or who were inspired by his work.

Center in Paris

Headquarters for the College’s study abroad programs in Paris is the University of Chicago Center in Paris, the University’s research and teaching arm in Europe. Situated in the thirteenth arrondissement, the Center in Paris is part of an ambitious intellectual project along the river Seine, including the Bibliothèque Nationale and a new home for Université Denis Diderot (University of Paris VII). The Center in Paris features classrooms, offices for faculty and graduate students, computer facilities, a small library and an apartment for the faculty director. For participants in Chicago’s programs, the Center in Paris provides a focus for academic activities, a central meeting place and a continuing Chicago “presence” within one of the major capitals of Europe.


Students in the Paris Humanities program are housed in a residence hall within the Cité Internationale Universitaire (Cité). The Cité, a park-like residential complex in the fourteenth arrondissement, is the international student campus in Paris, though French students also live there. Students reside in single rooms with a private bath and have access to Cité facilities, including a library, theater, laundry and athletic facilities. Students will have access to common kitchens in the residence halls and can purchase inexpensive meals at the Cité’s restaurant universitaire.

Credits and Registration

Participants in the Paris Humanities program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They receive one credit for each of the four courses offered through this program. If one of the humanities courses falls within a student’s major subject, he or she may use this course in their major without special petition. The use of these courses in related or interdisciplinary majors is also frequently possible, though for this students will have to submit a specific petition to the appropriate program chair. The art history course offered through this program is often accepted as a credit toward the general education requirement in the arts. The language course will normally count as an elective. Course titles, units of credit and grades are placed on the College transcript.


Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee and a non-refundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the non-refundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Paris Humanities program during the 2018-19 year are listed below:

Spring tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

Study abroad administrative fee: $675

Paris Humanities program fee: $4,800

Program fee includes: Out-of-pocket expenses include:
accommodation round-trip airfare to and from the program site
instruction transportation on site
student support meals
program excursions course materials
cell phone (device only) personal entertainment and travel
  communications (including cell phone usage)
emergency travel insurance (ISOS) health insurance and upfront payments for care
  other miscellaneous expenses

Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Paris is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section. 

Eligibility and Application

The Paris Humanities program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

The program is designed for undergraduates in good standing, including first-year students. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the humanities courses are taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take French on campus before the program begins.

Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record, personal statement and academic recommendation. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

Further Information

To discuss the Paris: Humanities program and the possibility of participating in it, please contact Kylie Poulin.

Learn more about the
Center in Paris.

What you’ll see: 

Contemporary Art in Paris students in conversation with Elena Korzhenevich of lettera27, photo courtesy of Prof. David Rodowick (Spring 2017)Photo of students on lawn by the CitéPhoto of musicians, dancers, and audience by the SeineHumanities students visit of the gardens of Versailles (Winter 2018)