Paris: Versailles: Art, Power, and Resistance

(September Course)
View of Versailles gardens with many tourists

Program Term:


Language Requirement:


Application Deadline:


The College’s September Versailles and Paris: Art, Power, and Resistance course provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to earn credit studying the historical significance of the Palace of Versailles through political, cultural, and artistic lenses. This course is offered as a part of the College’s Signature Humanities Course program.

The September 2024 program will take place from Friday, August 23, 2024 through Sunday, September 15, 2024. Participants will be required to commit to the full duration of the program in line with these dates.

    Versailles and Paris: Art, Power, and Resistance 
    Larry F. Norman, Frank L. Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor in Romance Languages and Literatures, Theater and Performance Studies, Fundamentals, and the College

    In 1682, Louis XIV shifted the capital of France from Paris to his new and extravagant Palace of Versailles, 11 miles outside of town. Versailles quickly became a model for all European monarchs, helping to shape European culture and history from the Baroque era through the French Revolution (when Paris once again became the capital); it continues to animate contemporary international culture. How does this astounding assemblage of architecture, visual arts, landscaping, performance spaces and political arenas reveal transformations in cultural tastes and power arrangements over the centuries? How do literature and art alternately support and subvert absolutist power and state propaganda? How does the highly regulated life of isolated court society relate to the bustling and free-wheeling world of the nearby city?

    To tackle these questions, this course will combine a series of site visits in the Paris region with selected readings. For the site visits, in addition to Versailles, we will travel to earlier royal châteaux which set the stage for Versailles, such as Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte. For further contextualization we will visit palaces, gardens, public spaces, and art collections within Paris: the Louvre, Tuileries, Luxembourg palace and gardens, etc. Our readings will range from the theater and novels of the 17th century (Molière, Racine, La Fontaine), through royal edicts regulating colonial slavery and first-hand accounts of the 1789 Women’s March on Versailles that upended the monarchy. Students will also be encouraged to explore cinematic depictions of Versailles (from Jean Renoir to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette) and experimental palace installations by the world’s leading contemporary artists (Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor, etc.).

    The course will be taught in English, with an option for advanced French students to engage in French coursework through the Languages Across the Curriculum initiative. Please see “Credits and Registration” below for details.

    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 Paris Cité. 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 September 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.

    It is important to recognize the cultural context of student housing in France and understand that the amenities of dormitory facilities may vary. Although some of these differences may take some getting used to, remember that cultural differences extend to all aspects of your experience abroad. Having realistic expectations for your term in Paris will help you approach the study abroad experience with a positive attitude.

    Participants in the Paris program will take and receive credit for one 100-unit Signature Humanities Course, SIGN 26043. This course is considered part of the students’ Summer Quarter course load and is recorded as a course enrollment on their Summer Quarter registration. The September Versailles and Paris course is taught in English and there are no language prerequisites to apply. Please note that Signature Humanities Courses do not confer credit towards the Humanities Core requirement.

    As a part of the Languages Across the Curriculum (LxC) program, participants with advanced proficiency in French will have the option to enroll in the course under a FREN course number, FREN 26043, and earn credit toward the French major or minor. To be eligible for the FREN credit, students must have completed FREN 20300 or equivalent, and will read French texts in the original, participate in French discussion groups, and complete written work in French.

    The use of the program course in another major or minor must be approved by the undergraduate chair of the respective department. The course title, units of credit, and grade are placed on the College transcript.

    Completion of a September course abroad will earn students 1 point toward Global Honors, the College’s recognition of exceptional global engagement. Visit the Chicago Language Center’s website for information on how to apply for Global Honors.

    Study abroad students pay regular Summer Quarter tuition at the one-course rate, 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 Summer 2024 are listed below:

    Summer tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office for one course

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Paris September program fee: $4,000

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • passport/visa fees
    • 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.

    Participants in summer College-sponsored programs are eligible for need-based financial aid, following the procedure described on the Summer Financial Aid page of the Financial Aid website. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our general Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

    The September 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 academic and disciplinary standing who are beyond their first year in the College. 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 course is taught in English, there is no language prerequisite to apply. Students who wish to pursue the LxC FREN enrollment for the program should indicate as much within their program application.

    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: Versailles: Art, Power, and Resistance September course and the possibility of participating, please contact Damaris Crocker De Ruiter.