Essay on French Civilization through the Lens of Art

Essay on French Civilization through the Lens of Art

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To learn a nation’s civilization, especially in only three short months, is impossible. However, if the teacher is good, he or she will find good examples that can encompass the movements and events that happened throughout the century, which in the end will add up to a close representation of the civilization itself. In FRE3500, we covered almost 2000 years of the history of France, using not only the textbook but other materials, such as paintings, architecture, films and music, in order to see life as it was at certain periods of time. I especially loved that the emphasis was not only on history but also focused on many different types of French art that snatched us out of the otherwise monotone reciting of history and allowed us to get a glimpse into the past through the eyes of the people, who lived it. However, with so many options to choose from, it is hard to satisfy everyone, nevertheless, the choice has to be made in relation to the main themes of the lectures. For me, there were three pieces of art that I missed the most that not only interesting, but tell us a great deal about the time they were made and accurately portray French civilization.
One of my favorite composers is Jean-Philippe Rameau, whose music beautifully represented the time that he lived in, mainly the Baroque and Rococo era. His last tragedy in music, Abaris ou Les Boréades not only represents the Rococo style of music that was popular at the time, but already foreshadows the Neo-Classical Period, that would soon follow, with its Greek subject matter. During the early part of the 18th century, the light and airy style became more and more popular, replacing the heavier Baroque style. At this time, the nobility lived a frivolous, happy and uneventful l...


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...elings of French society. The difference between Rameau’s opera, David’s Oath of the Horatii and Courbet’s Burial at Ornans depicts the difference between the people, who lived in the Rococo, Neo-Classical or the Realist era, providing a great way to make history almost touchable to us. Even though these pieces of art were not included in our class, other pieces were shown, which made this class different from other courses, and helped us students have a better understanding of French civilization. The textbook used for this class was easy to read and provided enough details to learn about the main aspects of a time period, without making it boring. I especially loved the inclusion of excerpts from plays and books that corresponded with each section. With all these aspects, French Civilization was a very enjoyable course and would be happy to recommend it to others!

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