2013-2014 French Courses
Advanced Beginning French: From Language to Literature
This course is designed for students who have studied some French in the past but wish to review the fundamentals before venturing into the study of complex literary texts in French. The course will be divided into two parts. The first semester will focus mainly on an intense, fast-paced revision of language skills: vocabulary, grammar, syntax, idioms. Students will write multiple short essays and participate in conversation and oral activities in class. We will also engage with various kinds of documents in French (songs, movies, texts, etc.). The second semester of the course will continue this work on language but will shift the focus more toward literature and literary discussions. Conferences will be individual, allowing students to pursue their interests in any area of French and francophone literatures and cultures. In addition to conferences, a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant(e) is required. Attendance at the weekly French lunch table and French film screenings are highly encouraged. Students who have successfully completed a beginning and an intermediate level French course may be eligible to study in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their Junior year. Admission by placement test (to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester). Course conducted in French.
Beginning French: Language and Culture
An introduction to French using the multimedia “Débuts” system (textbook/two-part workbook/full-length movie, Le Chemin du retour), this class will allow students to develop an active command of the fundamentals of spoken and written French. In both class and group conferences, emphasis will be placed on activities relating to students’ daily lives and to French and francophone culture. The textbook integrates a French film with grammar study, exposing students to the spoken language from the very beginning of the course. Other materials may include French songs, cinema, newspaper articles, poems, and short stories. Group conferences replace individual conference meetings for this level, and a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant(e) is required. Attendance at the weekly French lunch table and French film screenings are both highly encouraged. Students who successfully complete a beginning and an intermediate-level French course may be eligible to study in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year. Course conducted in French. There will be two sections offered: the first by Mr. Leveau; the second by Ms. Lee.
Intermediate French I: French Identities From Jeanne d’Arc to Zidane
This course will offer a systematic review of French grammar and is designed to strengthen and deepen students’ mastery of grammatical structures and vocabulary. Students will also begin to use linguistic concepts as tools for developing their analytic writing. More than other countries, France’s identity was shaped by centuries of what is now perceived by the French as a historically coherent past. It is not surprising, then, that the 15th-century figure of Jeanne d’Arc is today the symbol of the extreme right wing party of Le Pen, which has gained a significant influence in France in the last 30 years. This phenomenon can be seen, in part, as a reaction to the changing face of France’s society as exemplified by the French “Black-Blanc-Beur” soccer team that Zidane led to victory in the World Cup in 1998. In this course, we will explore the complexities of today’s French identity or, rather, identities by following the most contemporary controversies that have shaken French society in the past 20 years while, at the same time, exploring historical influences and cultural paradigms at play in these “débats franco-français.” Thus, in addition to newspapers, online resources, recent movies, and songs, we will also study masterpieces of the past in literature and in the arts. Topics discussed will include, among others, school and laïcité, cuisine and traditions, immigration and urban ghettos, women and feminism in France, French love, the heritage of French Enlightenment (les Lumières), “devoir de mémoire,” and the relation of France with dark episodes of its history (slavery, Régime de Vichy and Nazi occupation, Algerian war). Authors studied will include Marie de France, Montaigne, Voltaire, Hugo, Flaubert, Proust, Colette, Duras, Césaire, Djebar, Chamoiseau, and Bouraoui. In addition to conferences, a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant(e) is required. Attendance at the weekly French lunch table and French film screenings are both highly encouraged. The Intermediate I and II French courses are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their Junior year. Admission by placement test to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester or completion of Beginning French. Course conducted in French.
Intermediate French I
This course will offer a systematic review of French grammar and is designed to strengthen and deepen students’ mastery of grammatical structures and vocabulary. Students will develop their analytical and creative writing skills in French through essays and rewrites. The Intermediate French I and II courses are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year. Admission by placement test to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester or completion of Beginning French. Course conducted in French.
Intermediate French II: The Writing of Everyday Life in French 20th-Century Literature
This Intermediate II French course is designed for students who already have a strong understanding of the major aspects of French grammar and language but wish to develop their vocabulary and their grasp of more complex aspects of the language. Students are expected to be able to easily read more complex texts and to express themselves more abstractly. A major part of the course will be devoted to the study and discussion of literary texts in French. “Question your soupspoons”: In this challenge to his readers, Georges Perec summed up, in his unique manner, a particular strain of 20th-century French letters, one that seeks to turn literature’s attention away from the extraordinary, the scandalous, and the strange toward an examination of the ordinary makeup of everyday life. This course will examine some of the aesthetic and theoretical challenges that the representation of the quotidian entails. Does the everyday hide infinite depths of discovery, or does its value lie precisely in its superficiality? How do spaces influence our experience of everyday life? How can (and should) literature give voice to experiences and objects that normally appear undeserving of attention? How does one live one’s gender on an everyday basis? Can one ever escape from everyday life? We will review fundamentals of French grammar and speaking and develop tools for analysis through close readings of literary texts. Students will be encouraged to develop tools for the examination and representation of their own everyday lives in order to take up Perec’s call to interrogate the habitual. Readings will include texts by Proust, Breton, Aragon, Leiris, Perec, Queneau, Barthes, the Situationists, Ernaux, and Calle. The Intermediate I and II French courses are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year. Admission by placement test to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester or by completion of Intermediate French I (possibly Advanced Beginning for outstanding students). Course conducted in French.
Intermediate III/Advanced French: Proust: A Reading Guide
As scholars and Proust lovers will be celebrating the centennial of the publication of Du côté de chez Swann this fall (the first volume of À la recherche du temps perdu was published on November 14, 1913 by Grasset), this course will offer an exciting opportunity to discover (or rediscover) an author who is often considered, somewhat paradoxically, as both unapproachable and too canonical—a daunting “classic” whose prolixity and intricate prose have discouraged many who often haven’t even tried to read him. Our main purpose will be to challenge this misconception and lift these barriers, providing the tools that will help reveal a different Proust far from the cliché of the precious, overanalytical esthete; rather, an audacious and, at times, scandalous and incredibly funny writer who profoundly renewed the form of the novel and had a lasting impact on 20th- and 21st-century literature well beyond France’s borders. While reading extensive excerpts from Du côté de chez Swann, we will deepen our understanding of the context in which Proust was writing by exploring contemporary works of fiction (Gide and Radiguet, for example, but also Virginia Woolf and James Joyce), as well as theoretical texts on the novel and its “crisis” by writers such as Paul Valéry, André Breton, Nathalie Sarraute, and Samuel Beckett. Once called an author “between two centuries,” Proust will offer the perfect vantage point from which to understand the metamorphosis of the French novel between the early 1800s and the late 1990s. The course will include a review of the finer points of French grammar, based on the texts that will be read in class. Students will improve their writing skills through regular exercises and assignments. They will also develop tools for literary analysis and will be introduced to the French essay format. Course conducted entirely in French.