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Art, Literature, & Contemporary European Thought

Paris, France

Paris, France

Program sponsor: Northwestern

The 2019 cohort of Northwestern students in the 'Art, Literature, and Contemporary European Thought' program.
The 2019 cohort of Northwestern students in the 'Art, Literature, and Contemporary European Thought' program
A view of the Jardin du Luxembourg
A view of the Jardin du Luxembourg

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 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.

Begin Application Process


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 figured into their Northwestern GPA.

POLI SCI 364-SA: French Politics, Culture, and Society (1 unit)

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 (1 unit)

This course uses critical theory to discuss “art politics,” or the use of art to engage in political contestation and debate, in the twentieth century. Against a backdrop of civilizational crisis – totalitarianism, the Holocaust, the nuclear arms race – 20th-century artists used their art to interrogate and critique the state of society and imagine new worlds of possibility. In this course, we ask if and how art can be political. We begin with Friedrich Nietzsche’s thoughts on decadence, nihilism, and the will to power to debate the “meaning” of various styles of art in the early twentieth century. We proceed to the interwar period and the effort to use art to promote radical revolutionary ambitions. We conclude with ways to conceptualize the active insertion of the artist in political life.

CLS 383-SA: Art and Philosophy in Contemporary Europe (1 unit)

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 (1 unit)

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 (2 units)

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.

Program Requirements


Open to Northwestern and non-Northwestern students from all majors meeting Northwestern's minimum application requirements.


No prior language needed; however, students are required to take a French course on the program.


Apply for permission to study abroad
All students are required to apply for permission to study abroad. Learn more about the process, deadlines, and access the application on the apply to study abroad page.

This Northwestern Program has a maximum enrollment capacity. If there are more applicants than spaces available, then admission to this program will be competitive. It is highly recommended that you include a second choice program in your Northwestern Study Abroad Application, in case you are not offered admission to this program. Listing a second choice program in your Northwestern Study Abroad Application does not affect your chances of getting admitted to this program. Review the admissions criteria and selection process for Northwestern Programs here.

Program Contacts

Estimated Credit

  • 6 Northwestern units
  • Visit Registration & Credit to learn more about credit types and requirements, registration, and other considerations.


Accommodations and meal plan vary depending on selection.

Students will have two options:

  • Living with a French family in a homestay. The meal plan includes breakfast daily and dinners Monday through Friday.
  • Living in a shared, furnished apartment with one or two other Northwestern students. Students prepare their own meals.

Host Institution

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.


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.

Program Resources

Browse the program handbook for more detailed information about excursions, courses, and identity-based considerations. Note: This is the previous year's handbook and should be used for informational purposes only. Do not make and travel plans based off of the dates or information provided here. 

Review identity-specific information about Paris:

Program Cost

Study abroad program costs vary widely and may be more or less expensive than studying at Northwestern. Review the comparison.

Your Northwestern invoice will include your program fee, which covers tuition, housing with some meals, and international health insurance. Exact charges and estimated additional expenses vary depending on accommodations selected.

Fall 2019: $24,134-$25,134

(varies by housing selection)

Billed by Northwestern
  • Tuition: $13,564
  • Housing:
    • Homestay with daily breakfast & dinner:
    • Homestay with daily breakfast only:
    • St. John's University dormitory with weekday breakfasts:
  • GeoBlue: $180

Total: $17,644-$19,744

Estimated Additional Costs
  • Additional Meals: $1,800-$2,900
    (varies by housing selection)
  • Airfare: $1,500
  • Local Transportation: $400
  • Books & supplies: $200
  • Visa: $290
  • Personal expenses: $1,200

Total: $5,390-$6,490

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Program Financial Details

This section outlines some of the billing and financial arrangements for Northwestern Programs, and is intended as a guide to help you navigate the financial aspects of your study abroad process. You should always refer to your program materials for the most current information and instructions. Contact your study abroad adviser (listed above) if you have any questions.

Program Confirmation

Once you are approved to attend a Northwestern study abroad program, you will need to complete a Program Confirmation form to confirm your participation. Northwestern students admitted to Northwestern programs are not required to pay a confirmation deposit, but will be charged a cancellation fee for withdrawing from the program after confirming.

Northwestern Invoice

Your Northwestern invoice will be issued through CAESAR on the regular quarterly schedule, and will include your program fee, which includes tuition, accommodations abroad, all related program activities, and international health insurance. Your program's billable costs and estimated budget are outlined above.

If you receive financial aid and/or loans, these funds will continue to apply directly to your CAESAR account. If you were awarded a ULA scholarship, it will also disburse to your CAESAR account.

If you use the Northwestern 9PAY plan, you may continue to use 9PAY for your NU-billed study abroad expenses, but you should request a study abroad 9PAY estimate to have your plan set up appropriately. The 9PAY plan is not available for summer programs.

Student Visa Financial Certification

If you are required to obtain a student visa, you may need to provide documentation that you will be supported financially for the duration of your time abroad. This may require bank statements from your parents and/or a financial aid award letter; review your visa application instructions carefully to be sure you are providing the appropriate documentation, and contact ULA for assistance.

If you primarily fund your education through financial aid and/or loans, you may also contact Krista Bethel in the financial aid office to request a letter of financial support.

Withdrawal & Refund Policies

If you withdraw or are dismissed from a Northwestern Program after submitting your program confirmation form, you are subject to the withdrawal & refund policies for Northwestern Programs.

Sam Weber Paper Prize Winners

Fall 2019
First Prize: Delaney McCallum, The Revolutionary Potential of Independent Video Games
Honorable Mention: Dimitris Gkoulimaris, 'When I Die, Throw Me Into the Sea': Greek Rebetiko as a Political Art Form
Honorable Mention: Jean Sanders, The Relationship Between Image and Spectator: The Case of the Advertisement
Samuel Weber Prix d’Excellence, Hors Compétition: Samantha Lemeunier, From Autobiography to Autofiction: Anaïs Nin's Avant-Garde Revision of the Diary

Fall 2018
First Prize: Lois Biggs, We Hold the Rock: Place, Protest, and Aesthetics on Alcatraz
Honorable Mention: Justin Curto, Synergy Through Sensation: The Uniting Power of Color and Sound for Avant-Garde Visual Artists and Musicians

Fall 2017
First Prize: Wynona Meyer, Locating the Artist Within the Work
Honorable Mention: Marina Seyffert, On the Abolishment of Artistic Hierarchy in Academic Discourse: A Critical Analysis of Lil Uzi Vert's "XO TOUR Llif3"
Honorable Mention: Marie de Toledo, Questioning the Universal with Nietzsche, Heidegger, Dada and surrealism

Fall 2015
First Prize: Jenna Levin, The Story of History: Truth, Singularity, and Violence in The Act of Killing
Honorable Mention: Brian Campbell, A Task for a Lifetime: Alcoholics Anonymous and the Existential Route to Recovery

Fall 2014
First Prize: McKenzie Maxson, Translation as a Pharmakon: The Impossibility of Equality and Authenticity in Translation
Honorable Mention: Camille Charpiat, Niki de Saint Phalle - Reversing the Patri(hier)archy
Honorable Mention: Nicholas Lehmann, Achieving The Impossible: The Singularity Born Through Theatre

Fall 2013
First Prize: Amrit Trewn, (t)Racing Through Critical Theory - In Pursuit of Opening the Darkest Doors
Honorable Mention: Pleshette Strong, Spit Left on the Mic: Derridean Idiomatic
Honorable Mention: Ines Cassimi, A New Political Extravagance: an ethical politics of global starvation

Fall 2012
First Prize: Ryan Lafferty, Atget’s Animation of Stillness: The Life of the Still
Honorable Mention: Christopher Hoffman, "Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or it will not be at all": Writing the Heading from Breton to Derrida