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Courses

Selecting your first French course

All students registering for their first French course are urged to take the online placement exam, whether they are continuing students or incoming students registering over the summer. The exam (approximately 20 minutes) automatically indicates to students what course usually corresponds to their score that falls within a particular range.

It is also strongly recommended that students read carefully the catalogue course description of prerequisites for each course level, and consult with department members before finalizing their registration. Because high school experiences vary, taking the online placement exam and conferring with departmental faculty ahead of time is the best way for students to maximize their own and others' chances of getting into the course appropriate to their level.

Only students with no prior coursework in French are permitted to take 105a-106b. Students who have taken two years of French in high school normally elect 205. Students who have taken either 105a-106b, or three years of French in high school, normally elect 205. Students who have taken four years of French in high school normally elect 212 or 210, before moving on to upper 200-level courses. Students may not register simultaneously for 212 and 210 except by departmental permission.

During add/drop period (the first 2 weeks of courses), students are encouraged to confer with the instructor immediately if they still have any doubts as to whether the course level is appropriate for them.

Students unable to register for a course that is "full" should keep in touch with the instructor during add/drop period. There is often considerable movement between courses during add/drop period. The most recent information regarding the number of seats available in a given course does not always show up on the Schedule of Classes. The instructor has the most reliable information about availability of seats.

Catalogue Course Descriptions

The following information is from the 2017-18 Vassar College Catalogue.

French and Francophone Studies: I. Introductory

105a. 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.

Enrollment limited by class. Open to seniors by permission of the instructor. Not open to students who have previously studied French.

Yearlong course 105-FREN 106.

Three 50-minute periods; two 50-minute periods of drill and oral practice.

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.

Enrollment limited by class. Open to seniors by permission of the instructor. Not open to students who have previously studied French. Students should go on to FREN 205 after successful completion of 106.

Yearlong course FREN 105-106.

Three 50-minute periods; two 50-minute periods of drill and oral practice.

109 Basic French Review 1

For students who have had some French but who are not yet ready for an intermediate course. 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.

Enrollment limited by class. Placement test required. Students must successfully complete the proficiency exam at the end of the semester in order to satisfy the foreign language requirement with this course.

Not offered in 2017/18.

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

170 Meeting Places 1

(Same as WMST 170) Beginning with the nineteenth century, this first-year writing seminar examines the role of gender in stories about people who meet in public urban places, such as bars, streets or cafés. Public urban places are associated with a specifically modern consciousness, characterized by the embracing of more fluid identities, fewer constraints, and a greater sense of the ephemeral. We use each text to practice writing about literature while exploring the critical concepts of gender, place and modernity in a French studies context. The course is taught in English: all works are read in translation. Kathleen Hart.

Open only to first-year students; satisfies the college requirement for a First-Year Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

French and Francophone Studies: II. Intermediate

205a. Intermediate French I 1

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

Prerequisite(s): FREN 105-FREN 106, or permission of the instructor. Not open to students who have taken a course at or above the FREN 206 level.

Enrollment limited by class. Placement test required.

Three 50-minute or two 75-minute periods; 50 minutes 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(s): FREN 205 or permission of the instructor. Not open to students who have taken a course at or above the FREN 210 level.

Enrollment limited by class. Placement test required.

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

210a and b. The Francophone World Through Text, Sound, and Image 1

Introduction to the Francophone world and to basic modes of interpretation and analysis through the study and discussion of short texts (print or online magazine or newspaper articles, short stories, essays), films, and other visual or recorded media. The course includes a grammar workshop, vocabulary building, essay writing, image analysis, and "explication de texte." The course solidifies proficiency skills and includes review and expansion of more complex linguistic structures, and serves as preparation for upper 200-level courses. The department.

Prerequisite(s):  FREN 206 or the equivalent.

Enrollment limited by class. Placement test required.

Two 75-minute periods; 50 minutes of scheduled oral practice.

212a and b. Reading Literature and Film 1

Introductory study of French and Francophone literature and cinema through the analysis and discussion of poetry, short fiction, theater, the essay, and film. Biographical information, cultural context, historical background, critical theory, and the evolution of genre are explored. Susan Hiner.

Prerequisite(s): FREN 210 or equivalent.

Enrollment limited by class. Placement test required.

228a. Tellers and Tales 1

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

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

230b. Medieval and Early Modern Times 1

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

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

231a or b. 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. Cynthia Kerr.

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

232 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. 

 

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

235b. 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. Patricia-Pia Célérier.

Prerequisite(s):   FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor .

240a and b. Grammar and Composition 1

A course designed to improve written expression through the study and practice of various forms of writing, readings, and oral practice as well as an in-depth study of major aspects of French grammar. Vinay Swamy.

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

241a or b. 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. Enrollment limited by class. Mark Andrews.

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

242a. Studies in Genre I 1

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

Topic for 2017/18a: Memory, Invention, and Desire. The course examines modern writing about the self through the practice of autofiction. One of the leading categories of storytelling in French and Francophone societies in the twenty-first century, writing about the self allows modern writers to explore facets of their own existence by reimagining their connection to the world around them. The desire for freedom to reinvent the self is set against the often overpowering forces of history, memory and place, against the traumatic experience of conflict and colonial rule, and the geographies of exclusion that remain their legacy. In our study of several characteristic autofictions, we explore the emergence of new fictional strategies and fresh testimonial approaches recruited to uncover and recover private lives trapped in the past. Authors may include: Azouz Begag, Maryse Condé, Marie Darrieussecq, Assia Djebar, Patrick Modiano, Amélie Nothomb, Gisèle Pineau. Mark Andrews.

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

243 Studies in Genre II 1

Topic for 2017/18b: Standing Room Only. Contemporary French and Francophone theater is alive and well, nourished by the talents of a new generation of authors, actors, and directors. This multimedia workshop showcases artistically ambitious works of the 21st century that have played to full houses around the world. Students read dramatic texts and theory, watch screen adaptations, compare filmed performances, and work on their own interpretations. They learn about digital theater and put into practice methods taught at the French National Academy of Dramatic Arts. Playwrights studied include Yasmina Reza, Jean-Michel Ribes, Marie NDiaye, Joel Pommerat, and Wajdi Mouawad. Emphasis placed on oral participation, with the goal of improved French pronunciation and fluency. Cynthia Kerr.

 

 

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

244 French Cinema 1

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

246 French-Speaking Cultures and Literatures of Africa and the Caribbean 1

(Same as AFRS 246)

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

280 "On connaît la chanson": French & Francophone Culture through Songs 1

This class  offers a panorama of the history and culture of French and Francophone society through the very particular concept of chanson française. In France, chanson française is part of a common patrimony, which every single person shares. There are many French singers that have made it to the canon over the years, new ones that are battling to make it, and Belgian and Québécois artists who have somehow become assimilated. Is the cliché of sad, French songs about long lost lovers or disappointed love just a stereotype? What do French songs tell us about society, about cities and countryside, about relationships, and even about politics? From popular folk songs to French hip hop, through the study of musical style and lyrics, and of several films about French artists, students learn how the chanson française has evolved to reflect the diversity of the French population today. Pauline Goul.

Prerequisite(s): FREN 212 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 1

298a or b. Independent Work 0.5 to 1

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

French and Francophone Studies: III. Advanced

300a. Senior Thesis 1

Open only to majors. The department.

Permission required.

301a or b. Senior Translation 0.5 or 1

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

302a. Senior Project 0.5

Senior Thesis Preparation. Course to be taken in conjunction with FREN 303. Only open to majors.

303b. Senior Project 0.5

Senior Thesis. To be taken upon successful completion of FREN 302. Open only to majors.

332 Literature and Society in Pre-Revolutionary France 1

Topic for 2017/18b: Early Modern Écologies: A French Environmental Thought. Most people consider ecology to be a recent endeavor, just like the Anthropocene – the current geological period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment – is seen mostly as a modern epoch. Some scholars, however, date the start of the Anthropocene to 1600. What happened between the environment and human beings around that date that could justify such a theory? We analyze the extent to which human beings envisioned, cared for, and worried about their environment over the course of three centuries. Surveying French culture and literature from the Renaissance through the Baroque to the Enlightenment (les Lumières), students will read texts by François Rabelais, Michel de Montaigne, Molière, Montesquieu and Voltaire. We will put into question the radical stylistic change between the "abundance and waste" of Renaissance writing, and the subsequent "purification" of classicism, to use Bruno Latour's theory from We have never been modern and his lectures in conferences from Face à Gaïa. Other secondary texts supplement our study of Latour's work, and also include canonical texts in ecocriticism and environmental studies by Jeffrey Cohen, Timothy Morton, and Stacy Alaimo. Pauline Goul.

One 2-hour period.

348 Modernism and its Discontents 1

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period.

355b. Cross-Currents in French Culture 1

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period.

366 Francophone Literature and Cultures 1

Topic for 2017/18a: The Detours of Experience: History and Memory in Postcolonial Francophone Literatures. In the past 25 years, memory has become a resurgent question as official versions of History have increasingly been brought under scrutiny. This course examines the representation of the past in a cross-section of contemporary francophone novels from the Caribbean, and North and West Africa. We analyze the protagonists' new role as cultural mediators between a personal and a collective memory to reveal the silences of History and reconstruct forgotten experiences. We evaluate the authors' treatment of the concept of narrator as witness. Finally, we look at the impact of memory on a new aesthetic of literary commitment.

Authors studied include Marie-Célie Agnant (Haïti), Nathacha Appanah (Mauritius/France), Nina Bouraoui (France), Boubacar Boris Diop (Senegal), Tierno Monenembo (France/Guinea), Gisèle Pineau and Maryse Condé (France/Guadelupe), Leïla Sebbar (France/Algeria), and Abdourahman Waberi (France/USA/Djibouti). Patricia-Pia Célérier

 

Topic for 2017/18b: Screening Integration. French films have a reputation in the US for being too intellectual or "artsy" for the masses and steeped in so-called avant-garde aesthetics. This seminar aims to debunk that stereotype by exploring how the astonishing diversity and accessibility of French cinematic production actually reflects France's historical move towards a multiculturalist society. In particular, since the early 1980s, French citizens of North African immigrant descent have engaged in making a cinema that foregrounds their experiences. Likewise, as protagonists, they now play central roles on the French screen. By accessing the means of production, Maghrebi-French filmmakers have moved from the activist, marginal cinema of the 1980s to the mainstream French film industry in the 1990s. Their films not only gained mainstream recognition at the national and international level, but have now also reached a critical mass, which permits us to evaluate them in relation to one another. The breadth of this new cinematic corpus gives us the opportunity to consider how the French Republic has dealt with questions of migration and integration -- both clearly anchored within France's colonial and postcolonial history -- while foregrounding human stories, an approach in which the cinematic medium excels. We focus on films of various genres, from comedy (Djamel Bensalah) and heritage films (Rachid Bouchareb) to dramas (Abdellatif Kechiche) and crime fiction (Roschdy Zem) of the 1990s and 2000s. Our study of these topical films offers us a way to understand how cultural products such as cinema also participate in the social and political debate, and thus contribute to the construction of the idea that is the nation. Vinay Swamy.

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. Cynthia Kerr.

378 Black Paris 1

(Same as AFRS 378 and ENGL 378) This multidisciplinary course examines black cultural productions in Paris from the first Conference of Negro-African writers and artists in 1956 to the present. While considered a haven by African American artists, Paris, the metropolitan center of the French empire, was a more complex location for African and Afro-Caribbean intellectuals and artists. Yet, the city provided a key space for the development and negotiation of a black diasporic consciousness. This course examines the tensions born from expatriation and exile, and the ways they complicate understandings of racial, national and transnational identities. Using literature, film, music, and new media, we explore topics ranging from modernism, jazz, Négritude, Pan-Africanism, and the Présence Africaine group, to assess the meanings of blackness and race in contemporary Paris. Works by James Baldwin, Aime Césaire, Chester Himes, Claude McKay, the Nardal sisters, Richard Wright. Ousmane Sembène, Mongo Beti, among others, are studied.

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period.

380 Special Seminar 1

Not offered in 2017/18.

One 2-hour period.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1

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