In this course we will examine different ways in which writers have described cultural encounters between France and the Orient, specifically the Islamic cultures of North Africa and the Middle East. These encounters have been the source of many enduring myths fabricated by the French about the Orient and in the process, about themselves. Starting with Montesquieu's Lettres persanes, we will discuss the role played by the Orient in his critique of socio-political practices in the Old Regime. We will then examine various strategies for apprehending and appropriating North African cultures in orientalist travel narratives, short stories, and paintings from the 19th century. Questions of representation, otherness, identity, and gender will inform our discussions. (FREN 0221 or by waiver) 3 hrs. lect./disc.