French Department

Professors: Elisabeth Cardonne-Arlyck, Cynthia B. Kerrb, Christine RenoabAssociate Professors: Mark Andrewsb, Patricia Célérier, Kathleen Hart (Chair); Assistant Professors: Susan Hiner, Vinay Swamy.

All courses are conducted in French except French 189 and 248.

Requirements for Concentration: 11 units excluding French 248, and including at least 3 units at the 300-level. One of these three seminars should be French 332, 348, 355, 366 or 380. Students may count no more than one Senior Translation (French 301) or Senior Independent (French 399) towards the major. No courses in French elected after the declaration of the major may be taken NRO.

Teaching Certification: Students who wish to obtain Secondary Certification must complete the program of study outlined by the education department.

Advisers: The department.

Study Abroad: Study abroad is the most effective way to achieve linguistic and cultural fluency. Vassar College and Wesleyan University jointly sponsor a program of study in Paris. Majors in French are expected to participate in this program for one or two semesters during their junior year. Students electing a correlate sequence in French are also encouraged to participate in the program. Students concentrating in other fields for whom study in Paris is advisable are accepted, within the regulations of their respective departments and the Office of the Dean of Studies. Courses offered in the Paris program are included below. Students of French who are unable to study abroad during the academic year are strongly encouraged to attend the summer program at Middlebury College French School, or other summer programs in France or French-speaking countries.

Correlate Sequence in French: Students majoring in other programs may complement their study by electing a correlate sequence in French. Course selection should be made in consultation with the chair or other advisers in the department.

Requirements: 6 units excluding French 248, at least 5 of which must be taken above the 100-level. At least 1 but preferably 2 units must be taken at the 300-level. This unit should be French 332, 348, 355, 366, 370 or 380. No French courses elected after declaration of the correlate sequence may be taken NRO.

Study Away and summer courses may be substituted in the correlate sequence, with departmental approval.

I. Introductory

105a-106b. Elementary French (1)

Fundamentals of the language. Students learn to understand spoken French, to express simple ideas both orally and in writing, and to read French of average difficulty. While enhancing their communicative skills, students acquire knowledge of France and the Francophone world. The department.

Not open to students who have previously studied French.

Three 50-minute class periods, 2 hours of drill and oral practice.

189a. The Poetics of Terroir (1)

“Terroir” is a French word signifying the relationship between the earth, climate, and geology of a food-product’s origin and the flavors that it contains. According to the French, it is what gives food and wine a specific quality that allows the taster to metaphorically travel and experience the origin of the product he or she is consuming. This class examines how the concept of terroir exists as a literary and mythological construct as well, pervading the writing of French and Francophone poets, novels, and essayists. We address issues of regionalism and cosmopolitanism, exploring the political and ethical importance of terroir in literature. Most of all, we set out on a psychogeographic journey to see if the concept of terroir is a useful way of seeing the world. We eat and read our way to the truth, testing whether “terroir” is to be believed, or whether it is a figment of the French imagination. The course is taught in English. All works are read in translation. The department.

Open only to Freshmen.

II. Intermediate

205a and b. Intermediate French I (1)

Basic grammar and vocabulary acquisition. Oral and written practice using short texts, audiovisual and on-line resources. The department.

Prerequisite: French 105-106 or two years of French in high school.

Three 50-minute or two 75-minute periods; one hour of scheduled oral practice.

206a and b. Intermediate French II (1)

Emphasis on more complex linguistic structures. Reading, writing, and speaking skills are developed through discussion of cultural and literary texts and use of audiovisual material. The course prepares students linguistically for cultural and literary study at the intermediate level. The department.

Prerequisite: French 205 or three years of French in high school. French 105-106 by permission of instructor.

Three 50-minute or two 75-minute periods; one hour of scheduled oral practice.

212a and b. Reading French Literature and Film (1)

Introduction to the analysis of literature and film and to basic modes of interpretation through the study and discussion of short texts (poems, short stories, films, plays, essays). The department.

Prerequisite: French 206 or four years of French in high school.

213a and b. Media and Society (1)

An introductory study of France through current newspapers, magazines, television programs, films and the web. A strong emphasis is placed on the expansion of vocabulary and on oral and written expression. Some grammar review. The department.

Prerequisite: French 206 or four years of French in high school.

228a. Tellers and Tales (1)

Study of narrative fiction using short stories taken from several periods of French literature.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

230a. Medieval and Early Modern Times (1)

Studies in French literature, history, and culture from the Medieval to the Classical period.

Topic for 2007/08: The Politics of Seduction. Introduction to the literature and culture of France, with a special focus on woman as subject and object of desire. Readings include Tristan et Iseut, the love poetry of Pierre de Ronsard and Louise Labé, La Princesse de Clèves, a story of illicit passion by France’s first prominent female novelist, and classical theater’s greatest masterpieces of love and deception authored by Corneille, Racine, and Molière. The course concludes with Denis Diderot’s daring and celebrated narrative, La Religieuse, about a young woman’s struggle for emancipation in pre-Revolutionary France. Ms. Kerr.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

231b. Revolutionary France and Its Legacies (1)

Studies in French literature, history, and culture in relation to the French Revolution during the Enlightenment and the Romantic period.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

Studies in French literature, history, and culture in relation to the French Revolution during the Enlightenment and the Romantic period. Topic for 2007/2008:Philosophical Fictions. Ever since Plato banished the poets from the Republic for creating fallacious representations of truth, there has been tension between philosophy and literature. This, however, does not mean that the two practices go forever their separate ways. Focusing on the period from the Enlightenment to 1848, this course examines how the French literary imagination provides a litmus test for abstract realities and disconnected "truths," developing philosophical concepts in a fictional context. The ideas we explore include Materialism, Stoicism, Utopianism, Libertinage and the transformations of aesthetic theory in fictional works of authors ranging from Voltaire, Diderot, Laclos and Beaumarchais to Chateaubriand and Stendhal. Analyzing the search for the perfect society, the mechanical force of passions, the beauty of imperfection, the lust of unfaithful lovers, and the unquenchable thirst for glory, we trace in the years immediately leading up to and following the French Revolution how authors explore truths through the optic of fiction. Mr. Parker.

232b. The Modern Age (1)

The course explores literary, artistic, social, or political manifestations of modern French society and its relation to the French-speaking world from the Napoleonic Empire to the present.

Topic for 2007/08: Is Paris Burning? How can we explain the violence that erupted in France in October and November 2005? What concepts help us understand the long-standing tensions behind its upsurge? To what extent should we trust the often sensationalist news reported by international media? This course considers the root causes of what has been termed postcolonial France’s “crisis in democracy” and explores artistic productions to gain a broader perspective. We read fictional works such as Alain Mabanckou’s Bleu, Blanc, Rouge, Daniel Biyaoula’s L’Impasse, Fatou. Diome’s La Préférence Nationale, Rachid Djaïdani’s Boumkeur, and Faïza Guèye’s Kiffe, Kiffe Demain, and watch such films as Yamina Benguigui’s “Mémoires d’Immigrées,” Matthieu Kassowitz’s” La Haine,” Yves Boisset’s “Dupont LaJoie,” and Azouz Beggag’s “Le Gône du Chaâba.” Critical articles by Nacira Guénif Souilamas, Alec Hargreaves, Mireille Rosello, Gérard Noiriel, Gaston Kellman, Ahmed Boubeker, and Said Bouamama provide a theoretical context. Ms. Célérier.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

235a. Contemporary France (1)

This course offers a study of French society as it has been shaped by the major historical and cultural events since WWII. The main themes include Vichy France, de Gaulle’s regime, the wars of French decolonization, the Mitterrand years, immigration, and the religious issues facing France today. The course draws on a variety of texts and documents including articles from the press and movies. The department.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

240a. Study of French Grammar (1)

In-depth study of major aspects of French grammar. Grammar exercises, compositions, and oral practice. The Department.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

241b. Composition and Conversation (1)

A course designed to improve written and oral expression, through the study and practice of various forms of writing, and the discussion of readings on contemporary issues. Mr. Andrews.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

[242b. Studies in Genre I] (1)

Study of narrative and prose forms including the novel, autobiography, and the essay.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

Not offered in 2007/08.

[243a. Studies in Genre II] (1)

Study of dramatic and lyric forms including theater, poetry, and song.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

Not offered in 2007/08.

244a. French National Cinema (1)

Since WWI, French cinema has defined itself as national: not only as an industry requiring protection, but as a cultural institution bearing French identity. Through the study of individual films ranging from the silent era to the present, we examine the interaction between the French and their cinema in terms of historical circumstances, economic constraints, aesthetic ambitions, and self-representation. Ms. Cardonne-Arlyck.

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

Two 75-minute periods plus evening film screenings.

[246b. French-Speaking Cultures and Literatures of Africa and the Caribbean] (1)

Prerequisite: another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

Not offered in 2007/08.

248a. French National Cinema (1)

Since WWI, French cinema has defined itself as national: not only as an industry requiring protection, but as a cultural institution bearing French identity. Through the study of individual films ranging from the silent era to the present, we examine the interaction between the French and their cinema in terms of historical circumstances, economic constraints, aesthetic ambitions, and self-representation. Ms. Cardonne-Arlyck.

Readings and discussions in English. May not be counted towards the French major or correlate sequence.

Declared or prospective French majors, correlates, and students wishing to do the work in French, see French 244a.

Prerequisite: 4 units in the humanities or social sciences, or by permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods plus evening film screenings.

280b. Filming Identities in Contemporary France (1)

The last few decades of the twentieth century have seen many changes in the very fabric of French Society. Focusing on films made in the 1990s, this course examines the various concerns of French society and its relationship with emerging "postcolonial" culture(s). By focusing on the representation of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race in these films, this course highlights different processes by which the so-called "French" identity is constructed and is being deconstructed. V. Swamy.

Prerequisite: Another 200-level course above French 206 or equivalent.

298a or b. Independent Work ( 1/2 or 1)

One unit of credit given only in exceptional cases and by permission of the chair. The department.

III. Advanced

Prerequisite for all advanced courses: 1 unit of 200-level work above French 235, or Study Abroad in France or in a French-speaking country, or by permission.

300a. Senior Thesis (1)

Open only to majors. The department.

Permission required.

301a or b. Senior Translation ( 1/2 or 1)

Open only to majors. One unit of credit given in exceptional cases only and by permission of the Chair. The department.

[332b. Literature and Society in Pre-Revolutionary France] (1)

One 2-hour period.

Not offered in 2007/08.

348a. Modernism and its Discontents (1)

Topic for 2007/08: Victims and Perpetrators. The course approaches contemporary narrative fiction from the direction of its experimental representation of victims and perpetrators against a backdrop of criminal intent and flawed detection. Caught up in a swirl of unfamiliar events or enmeshed in a postmodern web of words, participants find themselves drawn into environments where they must confront the entanglements of language and tricks of the mind. We consider the obsessive play of traumatic memory and reenactment as well as the onset of identity confusion or displacement as we explore the textual fabric of a self-referential universe where everyday reality takes an unexpected turn. Authors may include: Camus, Robbe-Grillet, Nothomb, Chamoiseau, Bernheim, Japrisot. Mr. Andrews.

One 2-hour period.

355a. Cross-Currents in French Culture (1)

Topic for 2007/08: The Beast Within: Animals in French Literature and Culture. While stepping into the shower one day, the French philosopher Jacques Derrida felt oddly embarrassed to realize his cat was watching him. What does it mean, he wondered, to share the planet or indeed one’s own household with animals? In this course, we read passages from Derrida’s essay, L’Animal que donc je suis (1998) while exploring various representations of the animal world in French literature and culture, both before and after the emergence of evolutionary theory. Special attention is paid to the ways, rarely acknowledged, in which “national” or “cultural” identity depends fundamentally upon an identity that distinguishes us from “the beastly.” Works include selections from La Fontaine’s Fables, poetry by Charles Baudelaire and Guillaume Apollinaire, stories by Gustave Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant, Marie Darrieussecq’s novel Truismes, and Jean Cocteau’s film, La Belle et la bête. Cultural readings include selections from Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson’s The Literary Animal and Louise Robbins’ Elephant Slaves and Pampered Parrots: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Ms. Hart.

One 2‑hour period.

366b. Francophone Literature and Cultures (1)

Topic for 2007/08: From Text to Screen: Visions of Francophone literatures. This course examines specific francophone novels and the ways they have been translated into films. We look at narrative and stylistic choices in both media and the original yet comparable ways they produce meaning. Works studied are: North Africa: Merzak Allouache’s film, “Bab El Oued City” (1994) and novel, Bab El Oued (1998); Medhi Charef’s novel, Le Thé au Harem d’Archimède (1988) and film, “Le thé au Harem d’Archimède (2001); Subsaharan Africa: Ousmane Sembène’s novel, Xala (1973) and film by the same title (1975), Bassek Ba Kobhio’s film, “Sango Malo” (1991) and novel, Sango Malo: Le maître du Canton (2000); West Indies: Joseph Zobel’s novel, Rue Case-Nègres (1950) and Euzhan Palcy’s film by the same title (1983). Critical articles and book chapters are discussed. Ms. Célérier.

One 2-hour period.

370a. Stylistics and Translation (1)

A study of different modes of writing and of the major problems encountered when translating from English to French, and vice versa. Practice with a broad range of both literary and nonliterary texts. The department.

380b. Special Seminar: (1)

Topic for 2007/08: Women on the Margins in Nineteenth-century France. The course explores the roles and identities available to women in nineteenth-century France and the ways in which women challenged the boundaries of those constraints. Through readings of literary and non-literary texts as well as visual documents such as films, paintings, drawings and fashion plates, we consider such institutions and conditions as female education and conduct, marriage, motherhood and fertility, prostitution and its variants, sainthood, crime, rebellion, and creativity. Readings include texts by authors such as Sand, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Zola, and lesser-known authors of journals, conduct manuals, newspaper articles and travelogues, as well as works of critical theorists and historians. Ms. Hiner.

One 2-hour period.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work ( 1/2 or 1)

One unit of credit given only in exceptional cases and by permission of the Chair. The department.

Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris

Courses are subject to change. For information, please consult the department and its website.

245a and b. Intensive Language/ Bordeaux ( 1/2)

The orientation session attempts to address most of the needs and concerns of students studying for a semester or a year in Paris. In addition to offering an intensive grammar review that allows students to function at a higher level in their classes in Paris, the Alliance Française session also offers workshops placing a major emphasis on spoken French.

250a. Paris through the Centuries (1)

The aim of this course is to provide an in-depth geographical, historical and cultural perspective of the city of Paris. Each class/visit focuses on a neighborhood whose origins and unique aspects we learn about through an analysis of historical, artistic and literary references. Readings include texts by Balzac, Hugo, Zola and Corneille. On-site visits and class sessions alternate each week. Mr. Peigné.

251a. Love and Tragedy in French Theater (1)

The course first studies the nature of seventeenth-century tragedy as transformed by Corneille and Racine, who grafted a love story onto the core of myth. We then move to the twentieth century’s reshaping of the notion of the tragic through the influence of various philosophical currents. Questions of style (baroque and classical) and philosophy (existentialism and the absurd) are foregrounded, with emphasis both on the continuity of tragic literature and on formal variations from the seventeenth century to the present. Students attend four or five plays chosen in light of the Paris theatrical season, so as to allow the analysis of a number of live performances. Mr. Clément.

[252a. Special Topics] (1)

This course is taught by the resident director. Topic varies each year.

Not offered in 2006/07.

253b. Intimate Fictions (1)

Certain literary works, especially epistolary novels, diaries and monologues, are centered around the intimate lives of their narrator or fictional author(s). In entering into their fictional lives, the reader is offered a kind of pleasure that borders on the illicit. The central characters in intimate fictions are often motivated by a will to dominate others and a desire for unlimited personal freedom. Other narratives portray a protagonist engaged in an existential quest for truth that ends in various forms of despair, madness, disgust, and indifference. In terms of style, intimate fictions are often fragmentary in nature, since they both focus on the moment of writing and borrow from the world of spoken language. Whereas epistolary novels and fictional diaries tend to make fun of their models in order to highlight the frontier between fiction and testimony, literary monologues, at least those written in the twentieth century, create a fictional author who blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction. Works studied include: Claude Crébillon fils’ Lettres de la Marquise de M*** au Comte de R***, Maupassant’s Le Horla, Sartre’s La Nausée, and Georges Pérec’s Un Homme qui dort. Ms. de Chalonge.

255b. French Theater (1)

Topic for 2007/08: Twentieth Century French Theater. This course studies contemporary French Plays and theoretical texts on theater, and provides the opportunity to see plays currently On the French stage. Sartre’s Huis Clos, as an example of existentialist and absurd theater, and Artaud’s Le théâtre et son double, will be read and analyzed in depth. Three or four diverse plays will be chosen from among those running during the current season to provide a panorama of contemporary trends in French theater. Students will read and study plays, attend productions, and discuss and critique them through written work and exposés. Mr. Mégevand.

256b. Enlightenment Literature: Art, Science, Politics and Love in the Eighteenth Century (1)

An introduction to the nature and spirit of the French and European Enlightenment through some of the major literary and philosophical works of the period. The course involves an historical presentation of the eighteenth century, with emphasis on the Enlightenment’s encyclopedic aspirations and its intense interest in both early civilizations and the “natural man.” Students read a number of great individual works to which we still refer today in our thinking about art, science, politics, and love: Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes; Rousseau’s Discours; Diderot’s Rêve de d’Alembert and Paradoxe sur le Comédien; Voltaire’s polemical writings. Mr. Chartier.

260a. Studies in French Cinema. (1)

Topic: French Literature and Cinema. The purpose of the course is to explore the relationship between literature and cinema through a close analysis of various films from the sixties. We will explore different forms of interactions between literature and cinema such as the adaptation of a literary text to the screen (Max Ophuls/Guy de Maupassant or Delvaux and André Gracq) or writers who became filmmakers (Marguerite Duras, Jean Cocteau, André Malraux). Students will learn how to decipher an image and will study various literary texts (Ponge, Gracq, Duras and Breton). Mr. Leutrat.

261b. Art in France during the Second Empire (1852-1870) (1)

The course demonstrates how the Second Empire was a major period in nineteenth-century French art; while reaching the pinnacle of a certain tradition it aspired to modernity. The Second Empire can thus be characterized as a transitional period that saw the end of Romanticism and of Neoclassicism with the death of Ingres and Delacroix, but also witnessed the birth of two new important movements: Realism and Impressionism. In architecture and sculpture, the Second Empire also saw the birth of an aesthetic that is crucial for understanding the art of the second half of the century: eclecticism. By focusing on individual artists and themes, the course seeks to define the principal actors, the great artistic movements, and the formal and iconographic innovations that mark French art of the Second Empire. Mr. Peigné.

262b. Special Topics (1)

This course is taught by the resident director. Topic varies each year.

Topic: Exoticism: Imaginary Geographies in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century French Literature. This course considers the fascination with the exotic-with foreign landscapes, customs and culture-in eighteenth and nineteenth century French fiction and, to a lesser extent, poetry. Discussions focus on the representation of foreignness, the construction of the exotic woman, and the status of the European travel writer. Major authors include Segalen, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Balzac, Diderot, Mérimée, Loti, Flaubert and Baudelaire. Mr. Curran.

263a. France and the European Union: the Ambitious and Limits of a World Power (1)

After the long and troubled period of the Second World War, France recovered an

institutional equilibrium and a European framework conducive to its emergence as a European and world power. This new status, struggled for by General de Gaulle despite adverse national and international circumstances, provided a privileged space in which to assert itself through the construction of Europe. A founding member of the E.U., France put Europe at the center of its international strategy and quest for power. However, France lost its dominant position over time. A number of re-adjustments regarding its political system, foreign policy, identity, economy, and relation to the non-European world had to be undertaken. How does France deal with these transformations? What are their characteristics? What is their impact on French society and its political system? How does France assume its changed status from an independent power to that of a member state in the European union? Mr. Amégan.

264b. “Are the French Exceptional?” A Cultural History of Modern France, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1)

The course provides an historical study of French cultural practices, productions and models in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We follow the emergence of cultural “modernity” from the Revolution to the Republic and examine the gradual decline of religious and rural life, the challenges encountered by an academic and cultural elite, the cultural experiments of the avant-garde, and the democratization of culture through the rapid rise of consumerism and mass production. Major authors include Pierre Bourdieu, Roger Chartier, Michel Foucault, and Walter Benjamin. Mr. Kalifa.

265b. Franco-African Relations (1)

Beginning with a survey of precolonial kingdoms in Africa and the implantation of Islam, the course proceeds to an analysis of European intervention and of the structure of European colonial administration. Various phases of the African independence movement are highlighted: the formation of an African elite, the spread of African nationalisms, Panafricanism, and “Négritude.” Finally, we examine French policies in the post-colonial period and the U.S.’s emerging role in African affairs. Mr. Amégan.

266b. Politics and Society (1)

Topic may vary each year.

Topic: Gender in France. This course explores the various feminist movements that have arisen in France from 1830 to the present. Using the tools of multidisciplinary analysis, we examine the interaction between feminism and history, feminism and politics, feminism and the queer movement and feminism, social classes and race. Special focus is placed on contemporary issues involving women. Ms. Taraud.

267a, 268b. History of Art (1)

The course focuses, each semester, on a different period in the history of French art, with special emphasis on the works of one or several of the major artists of the period, or of one school of art. Class visits to the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Pompidou Center, the Orangerie, the Picasso Museum, or other museums containing works by artists under study are an integral part of the course. Topics may vary each year.

Topic: Installations: Places and Spaces in Contemporary Art. A new type of artwork was developed in the second half of the twentieth century that transcended modernist categories and was defined by the ways in which places, spaces and materials are used. Installations, with their links to Duchamp’s “ready-mades” and Schwitters’ Merzbau, can be seen as challenging perceptions of the ephemeral and of surrounding space. Stimulating considerable controversy over the last few decades, installations provide material for reflection on the relationships between the spectator and the work of art, as well as on the mechanisms of the art world. Central themes examined during the course include: analytical space, overloaded space, the enclosure of space, participatory space, and light-generated space. We visit a number of contemporary art museums and galleries in Paris. Ms. Kraguly.

Topic: From The Ideal Body to The Mutilated Body. This course aims to generate a theoretical reflection on the use of the body in Art. The course material seeks to examine and analyze how the body has long been manipulated through its relationship with cultural, religious and political institutions, right up to the threshold of exploitation. We explore the body as a construction of forms of discourse, obligations and instruments of control. Ms. Kraguly.

269b. Music and Culture (1)

Topic may vary each year.

Topic: Lyric Opera. The course retraces the history of opera in France through an appreciation of the lyric form in its musical and literary manifestations, and as a reflection of the cultural life of France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Emphasis is given to the relation between the dramatic and musical arts, the collaboration between librettist and composer, and approaches to staging. Three operas are examined in detail. Students attend performances of these works at the Garnier and the Bastille opera houses, and are asked to attend a fourth opera on their own. Visits to museums of music and opera are also arranged. Prerequisites: General background in music recommended. Mr. Memed.

272a and b. Writing Workshop ( 1/2)

This half-credit course is required of all students on the Vassar-Wesleyan Program. Year-long students take the workshop during the first semester only. The course prepares students to write papers for their classes. It covers common problems encountered in writing French and introduces students to the organization and style of written assignments in France. Students meet individually with a tutor for an additional weekly session.

273a, 274b. Special Topics: University of Paris (1)

Students in the Paris Program have the opportunity to enroll in French university courses under the supervision of the resident director and receive Vassar credit.

275b. Internship (2)

Internship in a French governmental, civic or volunteer organization through cooperation with the Internships in Francophone Europe program. Special application procedure.