French Roots of North America

Marie-Pierre Le Hir
Thursdays 10 AM - 12 PM (AZ Time)
September 29, October 6, 13, 20, 27, November 3, 10, 17, December 1, and 8, 2022
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French Roots of North America

Fall 2022
In Session
10 AM - 12 PM (AZ Time)
September 29, October 6, 13, 20, 27, November 3, 10, 17, December 1, and 8, 2022


Main Campus



Attend In Person OR Online

Why is French the most-commonly taught language in the United States after Spanish? Why are Americans so interested in things French? This course suggests that answers may be found in the long and fascinating saga of the French in North America, the topic of this seminar. The names of rivers (Poudre, Platte), cities (Saint-Louis, Baton Rouge, Louisville, Lafayette), and people (Bonneville, Crapo, Ducey, Duval, Québedeaux), several thousands of them, all evoke the French heritage of the United States. Most of the stories behind those names are forgotten, but they deserve to be told. In this seminar, we examine the contributions people of French origin made to the development of North America and the United States.

Hybrid Course Format

  • All classes will be delivered in-person and online via live video streaming. Students will enroll in their preferred format during registration.
  • In-person classes will be held in the Rubel Room at the University of Arizona's Poetry Center (1508 E Helen St, Tucson, AZ 85721). Enrollment for in-person classes is limited by classroom capacity and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. All students attending on-campus will observe the relevant University of Arizona policies designed to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 (more information here). Students who enroll to participate in person will also have complete online access to the course, including all class recordings.   
  • Online students may attend all classes via live video streaming and will be able to participate in all course Q&A sessions with the professor in real-time. Students may also access class recordings for a limited time to assist those who may not be able to attend the live class times. Online access will be password protected and only available to enrolled students.

Registration Will Open Online:
Monday, August 29, 2022, at 8 AM (AZ Time)

Required Reading: 

  • Champlain. The Voyages of Samuel Champlain. Gutenberg Project.
  • Denys, Nicolas Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America (1632– 1670). Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1908.
  • Louis Armand de Lahontan. New Voyages to North America. Reprinted from the English Edition of 1703, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites. Chicago, A.C. McClurg & Co, 1905.
  • Perrot, Nicolas. The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes [translation of Mémoire sur les mœurs des sauvages de l’Amérique septentrionale.]
  • Radisson, Pierre-Esprit. Voyages of Peter Esprit Radisson. Radisson, Pierre-Esprit. Voyages of Peter Esprit Radisson.
  • Additional readings available on the HSP learning portal.
  • Instructions on how to access all external reading materials available on the HSP learning portal

Recommended Reading: 

  • Gourgues, Dominique. Histoire mémorable de la reprinse de l’isle de la Floride (1568). [in French]
  • Laudonnière, René de. Three Voyages (1565). Edited by Charles Bennett. Tuscaloosa: U. 2 of Alabama P., 2001.
  • Léry, Jean de. History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, otherwise called America (1578). Translated by Janet Whatley, Berkeley: U. of California P., 1992.
  • Navarre, Marguerite de. Story of Marguerite de Roberval. Tale 67, Day 7 in The Heptameron (1558).
  • Thévet, André. Les singularitéz de la France Antarctique (1557). Edited by Paul Gaffarel. Paris: Maisonneuve, 1878. [in French]
  • Black Robe, directed by Bruce Beresford (1991) 
  • Documentary on the Hudson Bay Company: The Other Side of the Ledger [La face cachée des transactions] (1972).
  • Versailles, Season 1. 2015 Canal+ TV series, available on Netflix.
  • Simiot, Bernard. “1. Mathieu Carbec.” Ces Messieurs de Saint-Malo. Paris: Albin Michel, 1983. [in French]. The first part of the novel covers the years 1660 to 1684.
  • D’Iberville, TV series in 39 episodes, Quebec, 1967–1968 (trailer available).
  • Simiot, Bernard. “2. Mathieu Carbec.” Ces Messieurs de Saint-Malo. Paris Albin Michel, 1983. 
  • Versailles, Seasons 2 and 3, 2015 Canal+ TV series, available on Netflix
  • Bourgmont, Etienne de. Exact Description of Louisiana.
  • Deliette, Pierre. “Memoir of De Gannes Concerning the Illinois Country.”
  • Raynal, Abbé. “The founding of Louisiana and John Law’s Mississippi Scheme,” in A History of the Two Indies, ed. P. Jimack, 222–225.
  • Raynal, Abbé. “The Natchez Indians,” in A History of the Two Indies, ed. P. Jimack, 225– 227.
  • Frontier, a Canadian Netflix series that deals with colonial life around the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 18th century.
  • Bernard Simiot. Le Temps des Carbec. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986.[in French]
  • The Last of the Mohicans, a 1992 film adaptation of Cooper’s novel directed by Michael Mann (A+) [available on Amazon Prime)
  • Battle of the Brave [Nouvelle France] (2004). (D-) Comment la France a perdu le Canada.
  • Turn, Washington Spies, 2104 AMC series (available on Netflix). Lafayette, Rochambeau, and De Grasse are featured in Episode 8 in Season 4
  • Wolfe and Montcalm, directed by Allan Wargon (1957)
  • Jefferson in Paris, directed by James Ivory, 1995. [available on Amazon Prime and other channels].
  • John Adams. HBO mini-series, directed by Tom Hooper, 2008.
  • Chateaubriand, René de. “Prologue,” in Atala, 1–4.
  • Simiot, Philippe. Le Banquier et le Perroquet (a fictional account of Stephen Girard’s life in Philadelphia). [in French]
  • The Big Sky (1947), The Way West (1949), These Thousand Hills [The Western Sequence] by A.B. Guthrie.
  • The Big Sky (1952), film directed by Howard Hawks
  • The Revenant (2015), a film directed by Iñárritu, Alejandro G. 
  • Simiot, Philippe, Carbec L’Américain. 
  • Richards, Leonard L. The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War. New York, Vintage Books, 2007.

Course Registration

Meet Your Professor

Professor Emerita
Department of French and Italian

MARIE-PIERRE LE HIR, Professor Emerita since 2021, specializes in modern French literature and culture. Her publications include dozens of articles and several books: Le Romantisme aux Enchères (Benjamins, 1992); French Cultural Studies: Criticism at the Crossroads (SUNY, 2000); The National Habitus: Ways of Feeling French, 1789-1871 (De Gruyter, 2014), and French Immigrants and Pioneers in the Making of America (McFarland, 2022).


Poetry Center
Dorothy Rubel Room
1508 E Helen
Tucson, AZ 85721
United States
Located on the SE corner of Helen Street and Vine Avenue, one block north of Speedway and three blocks west of Campbell Ave.

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