Paris: Humanities

A crowd watches two people dance to music performed live outdoors.

Program Term:


Language Requirement:



 Kylie Poulin

Application Deadlines:



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.

    The following courses will be offered in Spring 2022:

    Existentialism in Sartre and Beauvoir – Matthew Boyle, Professor of Philosophy

    This course will be an introduction to the philosophical movement known as “existentialism” as it developed in France in the mid-twentieth century. We will approach this movement by reading two of its greatest works, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (1943) and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949). In the first part of the course, we will examine Sartre’s account of consciousness, freedom, anguish, and bad faith, as well as his conception of basic relations to other persons such as desire, shame, and love. We will then turn to the development and critique of existentialist ideas in Simone de Beauvoir’s classic work of philosophical feminism, focusing on her critical reflections on love, independence, and the conception of woman as Other.

    French Nineteenth-Century Painting – Martha Ward, Associate Professor of Art History

    Over the course of the “long nineteenth-century,” from the Revolution in 1789 to the outbreak of WWI, French painting underwent a series of extraordinary changes in subject, technique and range of affect. From large-scale paintings of historical scenes, meant to inspire civic values in public exhibitions, to intimate representations of domestic interiors, aiming for subliminal effect, innovative art changed in ostensible purpose, venue and audience. Its trajectory both responded to and helped to shape societal and political developments. Despite the dramatic changes, however, there was still continuity over this period in what we might call the “deep structure” of picture-making, that which made meaning possible, involving fundamental practices related to composition, temporality, and the very nature of beholding. We will explore these changes and continuities first-hand by studying paintings in Paris museums. Emphasis will be placed on developing fundamental skills in pictorial analysis through close looking. We will focus on a few important works by each of our key artists, including Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Manet, Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse. Students will be required to write several short papers on paintings in local collections.

    The Cosmopolitan Form – Geof Oppenheimer, Associate Professor of Practice, Visual Arts

    Taught in conjunction with the exhibition The Metropol Drama, scheduled to open at the Smart Museum of Art, this class will investigate the conception and place of the cosmopolitan in the monetary and aesthetic economies of the 19th and 20th century. The class will engage with the city of Paris both as case study and antecedent of our conception of cosmopolitan with site visits and meetings with artists, curators and others. In the 19th century, Paris was the origin point for a set of specific cultural currents that combined together to make something new, perverse and alive – before their subsequent fraying at the end of the twentieth century.

    The class readings will circle around works by Honore de Balzac, who wrote in The Human Comedy at length about the new invention of the “modern” bureaucracy and Guy Debord, whose mid 20th century writings as part of Situationist International understood the performance of city life in radically different ways. These will be joined by discussions on texts economic, philosophical and sociological from thinkers such as William Davies, Harald Szeemann, Dave Hickey and Richard Sennett.

    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 de Paris (formerly Université Denis Diderot - 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.

    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, they 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 nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Paris Humanities program during the 2021–2022 year are listed below:

    Spring tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Paris Humanities program fee: $4,975

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • transportation on site
    • meals
    • course materials
    • personal entertainment and travel
    • communications (including cell phone usage)
    • 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.

    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 and personal statement. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

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