Junior Seminar: Contemporary French Politics

Course Description

The Junior Seminars are intense writing seminars which focus on the research area of the faculty member teaching the course. The seminars provide an opportunity for students to have direct intellectual interactions with faculty members while also giving the students an understanding for faculty research.This junior seminar falls within the Comparative Politics subfield, and can fulfill an upper division requirement for the major.

Description: PS 191 is divided into three sections. A first section of the course traces the origins and principal features of the Republican model. Section two presents the main challenges to this model. Finally, section three assesses how French politicians are adjusting (or failing to adjust) in the contemporary context. Topics to be examined include: the functioning of the Fifth Republic, economic crisis and social exclusion, foreign policy (in particular, relations with the US), decolonization, religion and secularism, the treatment of women and gays, the rise of the far Right, and tensions with immigrants and their descendents.

The goal of this course is to produce a piece of original research that can serve as the foundation for a senior honors essay or publishable article. The emphasis is on contemporary political developments, as opposed to history.


PS 191 is a highly demanding course aimed at the most intellectually ambitious undergraduates. The reading list is heavy, and you will need to come to class prepared to discuss all readings. There are also multiple writing assignments, culminating in a research paper of at least 20 pages. I am extremely committed to this course, which I see as a way of nurturing the most talented political science majors at Cal. I will expect a similar level of commitment from students in the class.


Political Science Majors of Junior or Senior status, with a minimum overall GPA of 3.3.  Also the  ability to read French is a tremendous advantage for conducting research, but is not absolutely required.

Students must place themselves on the waitlist through TeleBEARS. Selection and notification will occur around January 10, 2010.