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 (1st semester)
Art in Paris in the 20th Century (2nd semester)
The purpose of this course is to study the various movements and major works of painting and sculpture that influenced art history in Paris during the 19th and 20th centuries and helped to make the city the “capital of the arts.” Each semester, the course examines important issues of the era. For example, during the 1st semester, we will discuss the relationship between painting and photography, the nude as a theme, scandalous works and the “salons,” drawing, and the relationship between art, literature and criticism. During the second semester, we will investigate the connections between art, modern music and dance, the relationship between painting and theater, the studio as a theme, theories of abstraction, and the relationship between tradition and modernity. In both classes, we will study the work of female artists and its importance, the connection between Paris and other capitals of art, and the relationship between art, history and society. This class includes frequent trips to view the works studied and to places where artists worked and sought inspiration.
Architecture in Paris from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower (1st semester)
The principal objectives of this course include studying the evolution and the innovative character of Parisian architecture, comparing it to other great European creations and examining the relationship between Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona, Vienna and Brussels. The course will be grounded in the study of major buildings and ask essential questions about architecture from the classical period to the industrial era. It will demonstrate how Paris was often a pioneer in terms of architectural modernity. Furthermore, we will examine the theories of prominent French and European architects, particularly Claude Nicolas Ledoux. The course will also shed light upon the great architectural and urban utopias that transformed our relationship to architecture and to the city.
Modern Architecture in Paris: From Le Corbusier to Jean Nouvel (2nd semester)
After an introduction to the legacy of certain works of the past (for example the Sainte-Chapelle or Ledoux’s creations), we will study the different evolutions of thought and architecture in 20th century Paris, from the avant-garde theorization and construction of the 1920s to the recent urban development project, “Le Grand Paris.” The course will touch upon the “art nouveau” and “art deco” styles, as well as the essential role of the diverse universal and colonial exhibits in Paris. Parisian architecture will be analyzed in relationship to other European creations such as “De Stijl” (Netherlands) and “Bauhaus” (Germany). The course will cover architecture from Le Corbusier to original contemporary thinkers such as Jean Nouvel, Dominique Perrault and Christan de Portzamparc. It will also examine museums and neighborhoods created in recent decades.
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.
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 Modern Novel (2nd semester)
Through the analysis of so-called “modern” novels, this course will question the fundamental idea of the novel, that of the “hero.” Throughout the 20th century, in the context of the philosophy of the absurd, psychoanalysis’ questioning of the subject, and the general suspicion imposed by the “Nouveau Roman,” the hero has become no more than a fragile and uncertain base for literary writing and reading. A consideration of the changing status of the hero will in turn allow us to trace the evolution of the novel’s status over the course of the last century.
Theater in Paris: Great Works, Productions and Interpretations of the 2010–2011 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?
Globalization and Sustainable Development in Contemporary France (2nd semester)
Professor and content to be announced.
Immigration and Multi-Culturalism in France I (1st semester)
After a brief presentation of the different populations that have settled in France in the 19th and 20th centuries, this course addresses “French-style” immigration policy and its political philosophy of naturalization and assimilation. We will study European immigration, discussing Paris as the “Capital of the 19th Century,” evoking the figure of Walter Benjamin and analyzing the relationship between Paris and other capitals: Berlin, Moscow and New York. This will be the occasion to reflect on the experiences of Dadaism, Surrealism, Expressionism and Futurism, and to question the notion of a “European cultural identity.”
Immigration and Multi-Culturalism in France II (2nd semester)
This course offers a panorama of the phases, themes, debates and major figures that have marked the history of North African, African and Caribbean immigration in France. After a brief presentation of the « colonial populations » that settled in France after World War I, this course will invite students to reflect on intercultural relationships, otherness, the political philosophy of naturalization and integration, and the place of Islam in France. We will examine Orientalism, Negritude, Creolity, and Beur culture. The presentation of different communities recently settled in France and the consequences of the Algerian War will lead us to analyze the issues of the suburbs, the rise of the extreme right, the closing of French borders after 1974 in the context of European Union agreements relative to immigration and asylum seekers, and the recent creation of a “Minister of National Identity and Immigration.”
Feminine/Masculine: The Construction of Gender in Contemporary France (1st semester)
This seminar will explore, through the methods and approaches of the social sciences, the construction of identities and the relationships between genders in France, from the Ancien Regime to the present. We will examine various spheres, such as school, the family, law, the job market, and also collective political movements. Particular attention will be paid to the question of representation, on the political level and through different forms of artistic expression (literature, cinema, painting and photography), and commercial expression, such as advertising. We will work with statistical data, literary texts and audiovisual material. The course will be structured around class discussions, meetings, and visits to sites of interest. Significant attention will be given to new approaches (Gay and Lesbian Studies, Queer Studies, Subaltern Studies).
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 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. The discussion of texts and the exercises that follow allow students to better understand academic written French. Conference work will provide an opportunity to discuss grammar in depth and to practice reading French.
Advanced French II (1st and 2nd semesters)
Professors Bendelian and Roland-Gosselin
The goal of this course is to allow students to revise and deepen their grammatical and syntactical knowledge of French and to become more comfortable with academic language. We will focus on the difficulties encountered by English-speakers (use of subjunctive, agreement of tenses, prepositions) through written and oral exercises, as well as dictations, grammatical analyses of excerpts selected from the daily press or francophone literature, and through presentations and debates. We study practical vocabulary and work on a variety of written exercises such as summaries and essays. Conference work will provide the opportunity to discuss grammar in depth and to practice reading French.
Advanced French III (2nd semester)
This course gives students the opportunity to master the written and oral language used at French universities through the study of the media and various articles about contemporary French society and culture. We will study grammar intensely and carry out various written exercises such as summaries and critical essays. In order to respond to the demands of the French teaching style, we will focus our attention on the art of composition and the evaluation of academic discourse. Students will regularly complete grammatical exercises, prepare presentations, lead debates and produce written assignments on which we will work in detail during conference work sessions.