HFA trip travels through French History
Larry Bryant, history, who received a PhD in French History from
the University of Iowa, will be the faculty-in–residence for
the Humanities and Fine Arts trip to the Loire Valley, Provence,
and Paris from May 31 through June 9. Bryant’s interests are
in the culture and political thought of the French Renaissance.
He studied in Paris for a year in 1972. On various visits since,
he has traveled in Normandy, Brittany, Loire Valley, and Burgundy.
His studies have interested him particularly in royal and noble
buildings. Bryant helped plan the customized trip to give a sense
of the flavor of three distinct worlds in France. He comments below
on those "three Frances."
In Provence, the oldest part of French civilization is preserved
in the Roman monuments—as those at Arles. As one views the
towns and villages from the 12th century forward, there is a sense
of the shift in culture from Roman to Medieval Christian and medieval
romance. Avignon is a good representation of this. There was a rediscovery
of Provence in the 19th and early 20th centuries as painters and
travelers turned to the land and seascapes of the area. Antibe—a
very old town-on the Mediterrean Sea, for example, was Picasso’s
wartime home in WW II. Picasso has his museum in a 900 year-old
One cannot really sense France without Paris—in the Renaissance
it was said, "If the world were an egg, Paris would be its
yolk," and there are many ways in which this is still true.
Paris, too, has Roman buildings, but its glory is found in the architecture,
literature, and government that began in the middle ages. An evening
cruise on the Seine is an ideal vantage point for viewing the great
gothic cathedral of Notre Dame, and the architecture and sculpture
of several of the famous bridges on the Seine,
Paris was the intellectual and cultural capital of Europe. The
Kings of France frequently aspired to make it the political capital
as well. Napoleon briefly succeeded and now has a splendid tomb
in a building that Louis XIV built a century and a half before Napoleon's
death. It’s an example of the French habit of bringing all
their history together in striking ways.
In addition to all of the riches of France that are gathered in
Paris, superb food and drink are abundant. Also, Paris houses the
greatest art collections in the world in its museums, The Louvre
Museum and the Museum d’Orsay are two of the most famous.
The heart of medieval and Renaissance culture in the Loire Valley
is the Cathedral at Chartres. Beautiful sixteenth-century chateaux
in the Loire Valley provide a contrast to the architecture of Provence
and the city of Paris. On the trip, we will visit some of the great
chateaux of the kings of France and some less overpowering and more
jewel-like chateaux of the nobles, who, with a sense of scale appropriate
to their position, created their own little wonderlands of pleasure.
Of course, the Loire, too, has vineyards, and its cuisine comes
from a tradition of satisfying kings and nobles. This is the France
of good taste and aristocratic style that turned this area into
the garden of France.
Tour participants can make arrangements with Professor Bryant
for course credit. He will provide suggestions for reading, discussion,
and writing on topics related to the history of France as seen in
the sites of the tour.
For more information about the trip to Provence, the Loire Valley
and Paris, contact Thomasin Saxe, director of special projects,
College of Humanities and Fine Arts, at 530-898-4642 or e-mail her