Sarah Lawrence Seminars and Language Courses
Semester-long seminars and French language courses are held at the SLC Program headquarters at Reid Hall. Class size is small, with no more than ten students per seminar. In addition, students benefit from guidance and individual exchange with their professors during half-hour biweekly conference work sessions.
Seminars in the Humanities
(may vary from year to year)
Art in Paris in the 19th Century: Academic Tradition and the Birth of Modernity. From David’s Oath of the Horatii to Monet’s Water Lilies (1st semester)
This course examines diverse artistic movements and major works of painting and sculpture, beginning with the neoclassical creations from the period of the French Revolution and Napoleon the 1st and ending with Rodin’s oneiric style and the almost “abstract” aspects of Monet’s last works, the Water lilies.
The course is based on the study of all that founds modernity in painting and in sculpture, as well as on the juxtaposition of the internal contradictions of the 19th century, which was confronted with major industrialization and profound social and political transformations.
Close attention will be paid to the impressionist (naturalist) movement and all that otherwise founds 20th century art, such as Japonism, “black romanticism” – which spanned the entire century, from Géricault to Victor Hugo – orienting creations towards imagination and dreams.
An emphasis will also be placed on the “postimpressionist” generation, particularly on symbolist art and the “metaphysical” creations of Gauguin.
Art in Paris in the 20th Century: Avant-gardes, ruptures, revolutions (2nd semester)
The goal of this course is to study major artistic works and movements in 20th century Paris, from the first essential creations of Matisse and Picasso between 1905 and 1907 to the “monochrome” revolution and the great transformations of the 1970s, which are the basis for all end of the century creations.
Other than Picasso and Matisse (studied for their works and their great influence on art), this course is based on the study of the paintings and sculptures of several other great artists of the era, such as Duchamp, Léger, Chagall, Chirico, Brancusi, Giacometti, Dali, Mondrian, Balthus, Pollack, Jorn, Yves Klein and others, including a number of women.
The course particularly examines two major revolutions in 20th century art: the “cubist revolution” and the “surrealist revolution,” both “born in Paris” and particularly influential in the art world. An emphasis will also be placed on the theoretical basis and evolution of abstract painting.
Finally, several “revolutionary” innovations/inventions will be examined, including: collages (papier mâché), the influence of African and Oceanic arts on artistic creation from the very beginning of the century, creations based on “ready made” objects and the numerous upheavals they cause in 20th century art.
Architecture in Paris: from Classical Paris to Modern Paris: Parisian Architectures from the Louvre Palace to the Orsay Train Station. Styles, Forms, Innovations. (1st semester)
The goal of this course is to study the evolution and innovative character of Parisian architecture from the classical period to the first great modern metallic creations, from 1550 to 1870.
After a historical and theoretical presentation of major architectural issues and their foundations in antiquity, the course follows an essentially chronological path from the Renaissance to the end of the 2nd Empire, examining religious and civil architecture. Subjects include the transformations of urban structures in Paris from the 18th century up until the instauration of the “modern city” by the Baron Haussmann.
A particular emphasis will be placed on the foundations of “classicism” in France and the study of Versailles, as well and two architectural revolutions that were fundamental for modern architecture: the “revolutionary” architecture of the second half of the 18th century and the metallic architecture of the first half of the 19th century.
Finally, the course will examine the first universal expositions and their essential role in the evolution of world architecture, making connections between Paris and Rome, Paris and London or other capitals. This will shed light on the originality of Parisian architecture and reveal how Paris was consistently a pioneer in terms of architectural modernity.
Architecture in Paris: Architectures of Modern and Contemporary Paris: Styles, Theories, Constructions. From the Eiffel Tower to the Grande Arche de La Défense(2nd semester)
After a historical review of modernization in Paris in the Haussmann era and its consequences on the global scale, this course will begin with the study of an equally important period in Parisian architectural creation: from 1870 to the present day.
The course will examine three essential periods, each at the origin of new forms of modernity: the end of the 19th century (1870 - 1914), the period of the last universal expositions, very rich in new urban and architectural developments (the Eiffel Tower, Art Nouveau…); the 1920s and 30s, a period of ruptures and innovations of the “avant-garde” stemming from the many theories and constructions of Le Corbusier; the 1980s, a period that revealed new architects and the construction of new “monuments” in Paris.
French Cinema from the New Wave to the Present (1st semester)
The objective of this course is to present the evolution of French cinema after World War II. We will study the complexities of the New Wave, the controversial movement at the origin of contemporary French cinema. Our approach will be grounded in cultural history and related to other research areas such as political and social history, and the history of the media. Excerpts of cult films and the study of major schools and authors will provide the basis for students to examine the great esthetic movements of the New Wave of the 1950s and 1960s, the poetic and political logic of the 1970s, and the more graphic and post-modern approaches of the 1990s and 2000s. Students can thereby acquire an excellent background in contemporary cinema.
Genres in Francophone Cinema (2nd semester)
The goal of this course is to transversally study French cinema by focusing on the notion of the cinematographic genre. We will tackle the notion of genre in its aesthetic, economic and sociological dimensions, examining the cultural history of cinema. We will study many different genres, which will be illustrated by film excerpts (an average of two per class). This will allow us to examine French cinema in a stimulating manner, as the study of genre is still relatively new at French universities.
The Return of the Tragic in 20th Century Theater (1st semester)
Although modern literature is characterized by ruptures with tradition (deconstruction of the subject and of literary form), the theatrical productions of the second half of the 20th mark a return of the tragic and of a form embodied by the French 17th century: the tragedy. Through the readings of dramatic texts that exemplify the evolution of theater as a genre in the 20th century, we will analyze the following: existentialist theater (Sartre), theater of the Absurd (Ionesco, Beckett) and theater of modernity, particularly when it encounters cinematographic production (Duras). We will base our reflection on the study of two plays representative of 17th century tragedy, one by Corneille and one by Racine.
The Feminine Voice in 20th Century Novels (2nd semester)
Twentieth century literature welcomes more and more women, who essentially chose the novel to express themselves. These women assert themselves in the literary landscape of the second half of the century, participating in the advent of Modernity in the Arts. What characterizes these writers is a desire to overturn the laws of the novelistic genre to express a singular, original voice asserting itself as “feminine.” It is this question that the course will examine through the work of three novelists: Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras and Nathalie Sarraute. In parallel, we will analyze the evolution of cinema in this perspective through the study of Alain Resnais’ film, Hiroshima mon amour, which marks the beginning of the “New Wave” in cinema, contemporary of the “New Novel” in literature.
Theater in Paris: Great Works, Productions and Interpretations of the Current Season (2nd semester)
This course is designed to present the major theatrical works of the season. Analysis emphasizes the interpretation and production of selected classic and contemporary plays. The study of these works allows students to situate them in their historical context, examine the adaptation of classic works into contemporary and avant-garde interpretations, and to analyze stage directors’ choices and various production techniques. As part of the class, students discover the major centers for theater in Paris (with trips to the Comédie Française and other famous theaters), further their own personal research and meet Parisian producers and actors.
Seminars in the Social Sciences
(may vary from year to year)
France in Europe: Political Systems and International Relations (2nd semester)
A general panorama of the press and a portrait of French political life allow students to become familiar with the principle political parties in France and to assess the ideological orientations of different newspapers and press reviews. A chronological study of the construction of Europe since the end of World War II, from the birth of the European Economic Community to the European Union, will lead to an evaluation of the weight of the Union’s international role as a world power, both politically and economically. Finally, the course will analyze French public opinion on the brink of today’s new Europe, and ask questions such as: does the debate surrounding the European Union transcend traditional political divisions? Are the French afraid of the idea of Europe?
France and Algeria: Between History and Memory
Immigration and Multiculturalism in France (1st semester)
Between 1830 and 1961, the destinies of France and Algeria were linked. The French presence in Algeria was a laboratory for multiculturalism: first in terms of the cohabitation of monotheistic religions (Islam, Judaism and Catholicism) and later by the presence of several nationalities: the Spanish, the Italians, the Maltese, and the Alsatians who came to Algeria in 1870 when France lost the Alsace-Lorraine region in the Franco-Prussian war. We will focus on the major events of this historical period and reflect on several key issues: the relationship between nationality and citizenship, the status of the pieds noirs and of Algerian Jews who became French citizens in 1870 after the Crémieux decree, the identity crisis of the Harkis. We will reflect upon the destiny of certain intellectual figures of this period: Albert Camus, Franz Fanon and Jacques Derrida.
French Immigration Politics: Between Naturalization and Assimilation
Immigration and Multiculturalism in France (2nd semester)
After a brief overview of immigration in France in the 19th and 20th centuries, this course will examine immigration policy and the political philosophy of naturalization and assimilation in France in the present day context. Studying the panorama of multicultural France will allow us to deepen our reflection on the notions of nation, citizenship, assimilation, secularism, the Jewish question, and to study the question of French minorities. Examining Paris as the “Capital of the 19th Century,” will bring us to evoke the figure of Walter Benjamin. The study of the School of Paris and the cultural ties between Paris, Berlin, Moscou and New York will enable us to analyze the notion of a “European cultural identity.”
From French Feminisms to Gender Studies (1st semester)
Professor Frantz de Spot
This course provides an interdisciplinary approach to the feminist question in France since the publication of The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (1949). The objective is to retrace the genesis of French feminisms and to understand the issues of the fight against that which Derrida, as a philosopher, called “phallogocentrism,” and Bourdieu, as a sociologist, called “masculine dominance.” This will provide the opportunity to distinguish the different feminist movements and positions, and to explain the transition from feminist theories of “gender” to queer theory. Finally, in the footsteps of Monique Wittig, we will study political activism, taking into account artistic productions and their capacity to restructure language and representations.
All students will be expected to take a French language course at the advanced level. Exceptions may be made for bilingual students. The language course is designed to provide them with all the necessary elements needed to reach their highest linguistic level and to perform well in all their other courses.
Advanced French I (1st and 2nd semesters)
This course offers a cultural approach to France, systematic review of the grammatical and syntactical bases of the French language, as well as advanced phonetic training. In class, the points covered are reinforced through written and oral exercises adapted to the needs of the group, dictations, and grammatical analyses of texts selected from the daily press and francophone literature. Conference work will provide an opportunity to work in-depth on students’ linguistic difficulties, and to complete a personal research project on a cultural theme chosen by the student.
Advanced French II (1st and 2nd semesters)
Professors Bendelian and Ricci
The goals of this course are to allow students to revise and deepen their linguistic skills, to acquire training in academic writing and to develop their socio-cultural knowledge of France. We will focus on the difficulties that English-speaking students may encounter (agreement of tenses, use of subjunctive, the conditional and the hypothetical system) through practical written and oral exercises, as well as dictations, grammatical analyses of excerpts selected from the daily press or francophone literature, and through oral presentations and debates. In conference work, we will examine students’ work in detail.
Advanced French III (2nd semester)
This course has two objectives: first, to help students develop a better mastery of spoken and written French through extensive study of grammar, texts and appropriate exercises. To this extent, students will regularly complete practical grammar exercises, prepare oral presentations, hold debates, and submit written assignments based on material studied in conference work. The course also provides students with a cultural approach to French society and to the city of Paris.
University Writing Workshop (1st and 2nd semesters)
This course is designed for students who wish to take courses at French universities. It prepares them for the written assignments that will be asked of them in their classes. This intensive training will focus on the construction of argumentative discourse and on its stylistic presentation. Students will systematically practice analyzing and synthesizing information, completing work on themes belonging to diverse disciplines. This course will be held during the first six weeks of the semester and is required for all students who wish to take courses at French universities and academic institutions.