Thesis: Frances Influence on Europe and the Rest of the World

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France

THE INFLUENCE of FRANCE on

EUROPE and the WORLD

As the official language of twenty-two nations, French is currently spoken by almost 200 million people worldwide and is considered as the official second language of such nations as Belgium, Canada, Haiti, Switzerland, and Monaco; it is also a major language in many nations located in Sub-Saharan Africa like Cameroon, Chad, the Congo, Niger and Rwanda, as well as in Southeast Asia in countries like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, due to these nations being former French colonies and territories some two hundred years ago. French as a language dates back to the times of the ancient Romans in what was then known as Gaul and has been traced back to the Celts who were related to the Greeks, the Romans and the Germanic peoples ("French Language History," 2009, Internet). By the Middle Ages, French had evolved into many different dialects, such as Francien, Picard, Norman, and Walloon and in the south, Provencal became the official dialect of the city of Paris and is today "accepted as the model for the French language" ("French Language History," 2009, Internet).

For most if its history, France has traditionally been a Roman Catholic nation and today, more than 80% of its population consider themselves as Roman Catholic; however, France is currently "a deeply secular country in which the role of organized religion has diminished" since the days of the French Revolution of 1789. Also, many modern-day French citizens do not regularly attend church and do not consider themselves as belonging to any organized religion ("Religion in France,' 2009, Internet). Besides Roman Catholicism, there are approximately one million French citizens who practice either Protestantism or Calvinism, with most of them living in northern France. There is also Islam, "the second largest religion in Europe" with about five million practicing Muslims in today's France. In addition, a small minority of French citizens practice Judaism, estimated to be around 650,000 with most being from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia ("Religion in France," 2009, Internet). Of course, due to the existence of historical buildings like the cathedrals of Notre Dame and Chartres, Roman Catholicism remains as an important cultural icon in modern-day France.

As to art, France has long been considered as the foundation of Western art with Italy as a close second. Generally speaking, French art, beginning roughly before the Middle Ages, has progressed through four major artistic periods -- the Romanesque (1000 to 1150 C.E.), exemplified by the architectural styles linked to such buildings as the Church of Saint Sernin in Toulouse and Mont Saint Michel in Normandy; the Gothic (1160 to 1420 C.E.), also exemplified by the architecture of the Chartres Cathedral, Notre Dame de Laon and the Rheims Cathedral; the Renaissance (1450 to 1610 C.E.), with such painters as Jean Clouet, Francois Clouet and the famous School of Fontainebleau, circa 1531; and the Baroque (1630 to 1750 C.E.), usually associated with the Mannerist style and the Court of Marie de Medici and King Louis XIII with the most influential painter of this period being Nicolas Poussin-all of which are responsible for some of the most magnificent and beautiful works of art ever conceived in Western art, not to mention the number of outstanding painters and sculptors who called France home during these periods. Following the Baroque Period, French art greatly expanded and became very influential during the late 18th century via Romanticism, but by the 19th century, a new artistic style came about known as Impressionism, best-represented by such painters as Manet, Monet, and Degas. By the late 19th century, France experienced another new style known as Post-Impressionism, best-represented by Paul Cezanne and Van Gogh. In the 20th century, the most influential artist with a firm link to France was Pablo Picasso, most closely associated with his 1907 work Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and the style known as Cubism. Undoubtedly, French art continues to influence many modern painters and sculptors via its focus on depicting the real world as in realism and its ability to transcend the visual world through abstract expressionistic styles and methodologies (de la Croix, 2005, pps. 325-467).

As to music, France has produced an entire range of highly-influential styles and methodologies dating back to the 10th century C.E. Most of the early music of France was related to the court and the church with such styles as organum, troubadour folk songs, Ars Nova, and Ars Subtilior. During the Medieval and Renaissance Periods, styles such as the chanson and those linked to the Burgundian School quickly gave rise to French opera, circa 1650, through the works of Pierre Perrin and Cambert (Thompson, 2006, pps. 256-267). One of the most influential composers of opera, circa the middle years of the 19th century, was Georges Bizet, best-known for Carmen. Of course, the Romantic Period gave rise to some of the most famous and most-loved composers of all time, such as Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Bela Bartok and Stravinsky, all of whom have created "an immense and long-lasting influence on all Western music well into the middle years of the 20th century with the flourishing of the Neo-Classical style" with Pierre Boulez and Olivier Messiaen (Thompson, 2006, pps. 278-290).

Much like art and music, the history of fashion in France dates back at least to the days of the French Revolution in 1789 and covers an extremely vast variety of styles. In 1858, Charles Worth, an English dressmaker, set up one of the first fashion houses that appealed exclusively to wealthy French women. Soon after, it became "a status symbol to wear clothes with the Worth label" which led to some of the first fashion shows, thus "setting the standard for haute couture in which the designer dictates the fashions" for society (Maughan, 2009, Internet). By the early 20th century, the city of Paris became the French capital of European fashion and with the creation of the La Gazette fashion magazine in 1912, fashion shows became the standard, leading to new houses in Spain, England and even Argentina. By the beginning of World War II, French fashion reached its height of popularity worldwide and greatly influenced all of the physical and visual arts. After World War II, such famous fashion designers as Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin came to the forefront in New York City, making it possible for designers like Christian Dior to create brand-new fashion styles, especially for the youth market in America which later exploded during the 1960's, thus "setting the trends for the entire world well into the 20th century and beyond" (Maughan, 2009, Internet).

In addition, another area in which France has played a major influential role is world cuisine. For the most part, it was the Italians who had the most influence on French cuisine, especially during the Renaissance Period when food was becoming" much more significant than just a simple meal." As art and literature thrived, so did the interest in fine food and the use of high-quality ingredients to produce "astonishing dishes like layered pasta, soups, breads and desserts," most of which was based on well-known yet very expensive Florentine dishes. Not surprisingly, it was the famous Medici family who in the middle 16th century introduced fine dining to the French court of King Henry II. Thus, eating and dining in France and elsewhere in Europe "became increasingly significant" with the French embellishing their tables with "fine china, glassware and serving ware (Steele-Carlin, 2009, Internet). Some of the regional diversity includes areas like Paris / Ile d'France, Champagne, Lorraine, Alsac, Normandy, Brittany, the Loire Valley, Burgundy, Lyon, the Rhone Valley, Provence, and the Cote d'Azur. Of course, as a complement to this fine fare, wine was added to the list of ingredients for a superb meal. Since France is home to some of the finest grapes and vineyards,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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