Fall 2019 Courses


Gateway courses

FREN 160             Advanced Culture and Conversation

Intensive oral practice designed to further skills in listening comprehension, speaking, and reading through the use of videos, films, fiction, and articles. Emphasis on contemporary French and francophone cultures. Prerequisites: FREN 150, or a satisfactory placement test score, or with permission of the course director. May be taken concurrently with or after FREN 170. Conducted in French.

FREN 170             Introduction to the Study of Literature in French

Introduction to close reading and analysis of literary texts written in French. Works by authors such as Marie de France, Molière, Balzac, Hugo, Baudelaire, Duras, Proust, and Genet. Conducted in French.

Advanced Language Course

FREN 181a           Advanced Grammar Workshop

In-depth study of grammar and discourse strategies. Advanced grammar exercises, linguistic analysis of literary selections, and English-to-French translation. Intended to improve students’ written command of French and to prepare them for upper-level courses; recommended for prospective majors. Conducted in French.

FREN 183a           Medical French: Conversation and Culture

An advanced language course emphasizing verbal communication and culture.  Designed to foster the acquisition of the linguistic and cultural skills required to evolve within a Francophone medical environment.  Discussions, in-class activities and group projects in simulated professional situations.  Topics such as the hospital, family physicians and nurse practitioners, medicine in Francophone Africa, humanitarian NGOs are explored through a medical textbook, articles, video clips, radio shows, films, documentaries, and excerpts from essays and literary texts.  Conducted in French.

FREN 191a           Translation

An introduction to the practice and theory of literary translation, conducted in workshop format. Stress on close reading, with emphasis initially on grammatical structures and vocabulary, subsequently on stylistics and aesthetics. Translation as a means to understand and communicate cultural difference in the case of French, African, Caribbean, and Québécois authors. Texts by Benjamin, Beckett, Borges, Steiner, and others. Conducted in English, readings in French

General Fields Courses

FREN 216             The Multicultural Middle Ages (Ardis Butterfield)

Introduction to medieval English literature and culture in its European and Mediterranean context, before it became monolingual, canonical, or author-bound. Genres include travel writing, epic, dream visions, mysticism, the lyric, and autobiography, from the Crusades to the Hundred Years War, from the troubadours to Dante, from the Chanson de Roland to Chaucer.

Special topics courses

FREN 319             Montaigne Beyond Skepticism: Learning to Read the Essais (Dominique Brancher)

Que sais-je? What do I know? This is Montaigne’s motto, engraved on a medal in 1576 at the writer’s request. At the crossroad of disciplines, this seminar will explore how Michel de Montaigne develops a philosophy of doubt by literary means. We will see that he does not naively or theoretically subscribe to the skeptical tradition, but rather proposes a practical and singular use of a non-judgmental attitude in the writing of Les Essais—the early modern masterpiece of the French literature of the self. We will read essays on topics such as: idleness, education, eroticism, imagination. These texts will be coupled with short, theoretical excerpts (Sextus Empiricus, Diogène Laërce, Henri Estienne). Readings and discussion in French.

FREN 330             The World of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables” (Maurie Samuels)

Considered one of the greatest novels of all time, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862) offers more than a thrilling story, unforgettable characters, and powerful writing. It offers a window into history. Working from a new translation, this seminar studies Hugo’s epic masterpiece in all its unabridged glory, but also uses it as a lens to explore the world of nineteenth-century France—including issues such as the criminal justice system, religion, poverty, social welfare, war, prostitution, industrialization, and revolution. Students gain the tools to work both as close readers and as cultural historians in order to illuminate the ways in which Hugo’s text intersects with its context. Attention is also paid to famous stage and screen adaptations of the novel: what do they get right and what do they get wrong? Taught in English, no knowledge of French is required.

FREN 360             Great Novels of the Twenty-First Century (Morgane Cadieu)

Why should a long book be an airport novel or an old classic? What are today’s sagas or romans-fleuves? In this seminar, we will read “great” novels of the 21st-century in both senses of the word: these fictions are long and acclaimed works of art. If our current attention span is supposed to be of eight seconds, this course will be a workshop to develop different forms of paying attention to a text. We will discuss the influence of length on our reading and interpretation practices. There won’t be more pages to read every week than in any other course, just fewer texts. We will read three long contemporary fictions by Marie NDiaye, Antoine Volodine, and Nina Yargekov.

FREN 400             The Worlds of Chartres Cathedral (R. Howard Bloch)

An exploration of Chartres Cathedral as a meeting point of various artistic, technological, ritual, literary, intellectual, and social trends in the High Middle Ages. We will study what went into building this “chief sanctuary of the Virgin in Western Europe,” how the cathedral fit into and changed the world around it, Gothic design and construction, and the literature connected to Chartres as well as to the urban centers of northern France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  Topics to include: the pre-history of the present cathedral; royal, noble, and local patronage; sculptural programs of the west façade and northern and southern portals; stained glass programs of the west wall, nave, transept (great rose windows), and choir; relics; liturgical and affective experiences of Chartres; the cathedral as a physical, sacred and social space; the cult of the Virgin; new learning and the cathedral school; literary works attached to the Charlemagne window (The Song of Roland, The Pilgrimage of Charlemagne, The Pseudo-Turpin), to the cathedral more generally (The Miracles of Our Lady of Chartres), to the towns of medieval France (Fabliaux); renovation and restoration of post-medieval Chartres.

FREN 419             The Myths of Versailles (Christophe Schuwey)

The mythical castle of Louis XIV epitomizes the continuous grasp that the French 17th-century has on the collective imagination. Attracting millions of tourists every year, welcoming expensive Versailles-labeled masked parties, it incarnates the French Classicism of legendary authors including Molière, Corneille, Racine, La Fontaine, Sévigné and La Fayette. However, just as the castle was once simply a hunting lodge, literature in the age of Louis XIV was not always considered classical: it became such. This course explores and deconstructs the myths of Versailles, from the 17th century to present days. Through literature, music, painting, as well as modern novels and films, we will study canonical and less-canonical works, inquiring how the mythical image was built, integrated into national identity and maintained, reading the resistance it raised then and now against this cultural hegemony and understanding how some authors (especially women writers) were dismissed by History while being genuine superstars back then. In the shadows of the monument appears a vivid world, full of fascinating cultural, commercial and political struggles.