Thèmes Littéraires et Culturels: No Word for God

FRIT F375 — Spring 2020

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Aiko Okamoto-MacPhail
Global Studies Building 0009
Days and Times
TR, 02:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
Course Description

No Word for God

This course examines the European encounter with non-European cultures and religions through French travel accounts to the New World from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. When French explorers and missionaries arrived in Canada, they were impressed by the enormous potential of this new world, but they could not recognize any religious practices. “Ce qui leur manque est la cognoissance de Dieu,” reports the Jesuit Julien Perrault in 1635 about the native peoples of Cap Breton. “C’est merveille que nous n’en avons sceu encore découvrir aucun vestige en ce que nous sçavons de leur langue.” Other travelers would repeat, contest, or reformulate this basic observation of an ungodly deficit in the native languages of North America, which forced European thinkers to reexamine their own beliefs and practices. We will read excerpts of travel accounts from Jacques Cartier to Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix along with essays by thinkers such as Pierre Bayle, Joseph-François Lafitau, and le Baron d’Holbach. Students will write and rewrite two essays and take a final exam. We will also gain experience on working with archival material from the Lilly Library.

Prerequisite: F300 or equivalent.

Class number: 5305

3 credits

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