Art, Literature, and Contemporary European Thought

  • Student enjoying the skyline of Paris

About This Program

Fall 2018

  • Application deadline: February 10
  • IPD study abroad fellowship application deadline: February 10
  • Program datesSaturday, September 1 (date of arrival in Paris) – Saturday, December 15, 2018 (date of departure from Paris)

Fall 2018: $23,530 or $24,530, depending upon accommodations selected

Total fees charged by Northwestern: $18,040, $16,840, or $18,840, includes:

  • $12,865 tuition fee covers courses and excursions
  • Accommodations options:
    1. Homestay with daily breakfast and dinner: $5,000
    2. Homestay with daily breakfast only: $3,800
    3. St. John's University dormitory with weekday breakfasts: $5,800
  • $175 for GeoBlue Health Insurance
  • $0 Study Abroad Administrative Fee

Estimated additional costs: $5,490, $6,690, or $5,690, includes:

  • $1,500 round trip airfare to Paris, France (students book their own airfare; rates vary)
  • $1,000-$2,200 for additional meals
  • $200 for books and supplies
  • $290 for visa fees
  • $2,500 for discretionary expenses, including local transportation, personal expenses, and incidentals

Students applying to this program are eligible for IPD Study Abroad Fellowships and may be eligible for external funding opportunities.

Students participating in this program are subject to the Withdrawal and Refund Policies for Northwestern-Sponsored Programs.


This program combines art, literature, and philosophy to understand and critique Western modernity, all in the home of some of the world’s most influential artists and thinkers: Paris. Students will get to immerse themselves in Paris’s extraordinary repository of visual art through visits to museums, such as the renowned Musée National d’Art Moderne, the Centre d’Art Contemporain, and the Musée d’Orsay, which is home to the largest collection of (post)-impressionist art in the world. Students will get to travel to the picturesque village of Auvers-sur-Oise in the northwestern suburbs of Paris, and to the southern city of Arles, to walk in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh. They will also visit the seaside city of Nice to view the collections and inspirations of Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, and other important visual artists. Students will read the literary works of influential novelists and playwrights like Breton, Camus, Jarry, and Kafka, and engage in lively discourse about art, literature, and politics through the perspectives of contemporary European philosophers, such as Heidegger, Adorno, Foucault, Baudrillard, and others. Students interrogate modern life – lived modernity – through the lens of European phenomenology, existentialism, and critical theory. Coursework is taught in English, but students will also take intensive French language classes.

Host Institutions

Established in 1872, Sciences Po is one of Europe’s most distinguished and well-known schools of public affairs. The majority of France’s political leaders are alumni, including former presidents Jacques Chirac and François Mitterrand. The Paris campus, located near the Seine and within walking distance of Notre Dame de Paris and the Louvre, is the most famous of the seven Sciences Po undergraduate campuses located all over France. While the University primarily conducts classes in French, the education has a strong international dimension. Students are expected to study at least two foreign languages in addition to French, and many courses are offered in English. Forty percent of Sciences Po’s student population is international, with 60 different nationalities represented.

Founded in 1970, the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 evolved from the former Faculty of Arts of the University of Paris and is now a leading French institution in the arts and humanities. With approximately 400 international agreements, the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle has a strong commitment to international cooperation, with almost 1,500 incoming and outgoing exchange students per year.

Housing & Meals

Accommodations and a meal plan are provided as part of the program package.

Students will have two options:

  • Living with a French family in a homestay. Students select between a "half-board" meal plan option, with breakfast and dinner included daily, and a "bed & breakfast" option, with breakfast only provided daily.
  • Staying in the dormitory at St. John’s University's Paris Campus with breakfast provided daily.


This is a Northwestern program with a set curriculum, so students must enroll in the courses listed below. All courses and grades appear on students' Northwestern transcript and are factored into their Northwestern GPA.

POLI SCI 364-SA: French Politics, Culture, and Society

This course provides an introduction to France and French politics by exposing students to an array of topics related to French cultural and social life, presented through guest lectures from Northwestern, Sciences Po, and other French and European scholars. Topics vary from year to year, but issues, such as racism, gay rights, diversity, migration policy, and economic inequality, will be debated and addressed within the context of French institutions.

POLI SCI 308-SA: Critical Theory and the Study of Politics

Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth century was at the height of its political and economic power. It provided the world with a model of moral, social, economic, and political progress. But European thinkers like Nietzsche, Max Weber, and Freud worried about the fragile cultural foundations of that power. Crisis and collapse in the middle of the century inspired some of the world’s most original and passionately critical thinking, as represented by authors we read, such as Adorno, Heidegger, Patocka, Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, and others.

CLS 383-SA: Art and Philosophy in Contemporary Europe

The course begins with a meditation on a painting of a pair of boots by Vincent van Gogh. Students read essays on that painting by Martin Heidegger, Meyer Schapiro, and Jacques Derrida. Students use concepts and insights derived from that literature to engage with work by authors such as André Breton (Surrealism), Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre (Existentialism), and Theodor Adorno (Critical Theory), among others.

CLS 390-SA: Philosophy and Literature

This course begins similarly with a meditation – in this case, on a classic work of American nineteenth century literature, Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener. We use this article as an introduction to engage with the work of twentieth century French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Having placed contemporary European thought and literature in conversation with one another, we analyze plays by Alfred Jarry, (“Pataphyscis”), and Samuel Beckett (theater of the absurd). We go back and forth between this literature and the philosophy of thinkers such as Immanuel Kant, Baruch Spinoza, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Plato.

FRENCH 199-SA or 299-SA: French Language

  • Taught by French instructors from Sciences Po

While there is no language prerequisite to participate in this program, students are required to take intensive French language training while in Paris. Three to four levels of language instruction are offered, depending on students' skill levels. 


Northern France

On one of the first weekends of the program, students will travel to see the beaches of Normandy and the American and German cemeteries from World War II. The trip provides a great opportunity for students on the program to get an introduction to France and to each other.


Students and faculty travel to the southern city of Arles to visit the LUMA Arles and meet with local artists, including students at the National School of Photography in Arles.


Students will visit art museums and sites of inspiration for important visual artists, such as the Atelier de Cezanne, Musee Leger, and Musee Picasso.