French Riviera/ProvenceSummer Study Tour

On this week-long Study Tour, our classroom now moves to the French Riviera and Provence along the southern coast of France, as we follow this course’s authors, thinkers, and artists in search of the good life. People drawn to the Mediterranean are, like their “Nordic” counterparts, known for cultivating the art of living, though in contrasting ways. Some writers saw northern Europe as the land of the cold philosopher kings, while Mediterranean civilization embodied for them the pursuit of well-being. While modern humans can seem out of touch with lived life, bound up in representational modes of thinking and instrumental ways of engaging the world, southern France inspires a rare ability to capture a raw and genuine experience of bodily encounter with the world.

Our pilgrimage takes us to the beautiful Alpes-Maritimes city of Nice, originally founded by the Greeks, and refuge to artists and thinkers since the nineteenth century. Excursions to the east and west, including cities bursting with university life, idyllic coastal towns, and secluded mountain villages, permit us to visit the sites where nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophers, writers, and artists sought solitude and rejuvenation, where they lived and wrote, and, not least, where they loved and died.

Tour Objectives

  • Experience with our own bodies and minds the places that inspired the authors in our course, including the actual locales where their writings and artworks were conceived and created, also by experimenting for ourselves through writing/drawing exercises in situ
  • Hike in the footsteps of those who believed physical exertion could breathe life into ancient questions about human flourishing, while taking in spectacular views over the Mediterranean and along remote Alpine trails
  • Experience the silence and peacefulness characteristic of the Alpine-Mediterranean region thought by many to be essential to the ability to live in the moment and to reflections on the good life

Possible Activities

  • Hike along with Friedrich Nietzsche on the rocky coastal path near Nice that inspired his "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," where he claimed he could hike all day, regenerating himself and never tiring
  • Experience the charming Provence village of Lourmarin, situated at the foot of a mountain range, where Albert Camus lived the last years of his life and wrote his final, posthumously published work, "The First Man," before his untimely death at the age of 46
  • Visit Provence’s oldest Renaissance Château, where Camus stayed with fellow writers in isolated Spartan rooms that spooked him at night, still run today as a residence for writers, artists, and musicians
  • Following Simone de Beauvoir, hike to a remote Grotto set in a mountain ridge in Bouche-du-Rhône, one of the most ancient pilgrimage sites in the world, as the rumored refuge of Mary Magdalene, today a sanctuary held by Dominican friars
  • Visit the Chagall Museum, stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, take in the sights from Castle Hill, enjoy delicious fare, and bask in the ideal climate of the city of Nice, France's magical doorway between the Alps and the Mediterranean