Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Gregory B. Stone


Racism in France can be traced back to the 1560's when the nobles claimed to be of a separate race in order to obtain special rights and privileges. Soon after in the seventeenth century, scientists started to classify humans according to physical features. With the increase in travel, the slave trade, the fear of the unknown and the fear of contamination, these factors along with physiognomy and phrenology encouraged "biological racism." During the second half of the nineteenth century, Ernest Renan (1823--1892) denounces biological racism and the existence of the so-called "pure races." He is also the first dramatist to write a sequel to William Shakespeare's The Tempest (1611). However, the works of this French philosopher, philologist, historian, scholar of Semitic languages, and theologian have fallen into relative obscurity. The goal of this dissertation is to provide a balanced view of Renan's works and to provide grounds for revising the image of Renan constructed by such critics as Edward Said and Tzvetan Todorov. This dissertation also attempts to show that some of Renan's writings contain elements that deconstruct the discourse of the obvious ethnocentricism in some of his other writings. The following texts by Renan's are analyzed: Histoire generale et systeme compare des langues semitiques, l'Avenir de la science, Vie de Jesus, "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?" and Caliban.