HIST 199, Spring 2020

This course centers on the lives of two, French, female icons: Joan of Arc and Marie-Antoinette, as a window into the history of early modern women, gender and sexuality. No two women could be more different; each provides a unique path toward understanding female power and victimization, if not French identity (for better or for worse). We begin by putting “the virgin warrior” and “the wicked queen” into their respective historical contexts of medieval and revolutionary France, using contemporary memoirs, trial records, diaries, and pamphlet literature to learn what made them such powerful figures in the mind of contemporaries. Alongside this biographical study, we situate these two female figures within a larger history of womanhood, uncovering the ways in which gender and sexuality operated in these eras to bolster and hinder the status and influence of women in relation to men. We then turn to various portrayals of these women over the centuries in film, plays, portraiture, popular and scholarly literature, advertising, and propaganda. Students will become skilled in historical thinking through reading, writing and oral assignments that ask them to be attentive to the use and distortion of historical fact, and to critically examine the range of interpretation, aims of historical revision, and modes of representation as a culturally constituted practice.