Nicole Asquith

Undergraduate Discipline

French

BA, Swarthmore College. Maîtrise, Université de Picardie. PhD, Johns Hopkins University. Specialization in French modern poetry, with an emphasis on poetry as a form of social and political action. Other research and teaching interests include cultural studies, environmental humanities, ecocriticism, French theatre, opera, and hip-hop. Articles published on Rimbaud, graffiti and French hip-hop. SLC, 2024–

Previous Courses

French

Intermediate French I: French Revolutions

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

Prerequisite: completion of Beginning French or by placement test taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester

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 develop their French writing skills, with an emphasis on analytical writing. Since the events of the French Revolution, epitomized by the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793, revolution has been a fundamental paradigm of French thought. It has been associated with an inversion of the social hierarchy and the creation of a new social order but also with violence and upheaval. In this course, we will look at revolutions of all kinds—political but also cultural, scientific, and technological—and the ways in which they relate back to and differ from the thinking that emerged from the French Revolution itself. Among the events and movements we will consider are the Haitian revolution of 1804, the Industrial Revolution, the establishment of a secular society after the Paris Commune, French feminism, the Algerian war, May 1968 and the sexual revolution, the digital revolution, and the French Green movement. We will use a wide range of materials in our study, from political posters and treatises to films, newspaper articles, poems, plays, and novels. Readings will include excerpts from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Olympe de Gouges, Victor Hugo, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Honoré Balzac, Franz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Simone de Beauvoir, Assia Djebar, and Michel Serres. 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 courses in French are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year.

Faculty

Intermediate French II

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

Prerequisite: Intermediate I (or Advanced Beginning for outstanding students) or by placement test

This course will cover the normal language content over the course of the year but will have different thematic content each semester. Fall: The Writing of Everyday Life (Jason Earle) This 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 fall semester will be devoted to the study and discussion of literary texts in French. In a challenge to his readers,“Question your soupspoons,” 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. Spring: French Romanticism and Nature (Nicole Asquith) The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris, a public garden built over a city dump in the 1860s, gives us a visual representation of the change in how people conceived of their relationship to the natural world that coincided with the shift from the French Classicism of the 17th and 18th centuries to the French Romantic movement of the 19th century. With its imitations of a mountain landscape, replete with artificial lake, grotto, rustic bridges and secluded groves, the park expresses a totally different desire with respect to the natural world than the highly formal classical gardens we associate with the gardens of Versailles, created by André Le Nôtre for Louis XIV. In this semester, we will study French Romanticism as a way to make sense, more broadly, of the ways in which culture expresses and shapes our relationship to the natural world. To this end, we will use a wide range of materials, including photographs of gardens, paintings, music, and literature. We will also consider how Romantic attitudes toward nature inform contemporary thinking on the environment. What are the limitations of the Romantic idealization of nature in the age of the Anthropocene? Conversely, in what ways are environmentalists today interested in recapturing certain ideas of the Romantics? How did Romantics gender nature, and how did they exploit the colonized in their depictions of the natural world? We will consider topics such as the Romantics’ reactions to the Enlightenment, Industrialization and Urbanization, the ethics of our relationship to the natural world, Orientalism, and the Gothic. Readings will include excerpts and works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, François-René de Chateaubriand, Madame de Staël, Victor Hugo, Gérard de Nerval, Alphonse de Lamartine, George Sand, Aimé Césaire and Louise Colet. 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. 

Faculty

Intermediate III/Advanced French: La Négritude

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: completion of Intermediate French II or SLC in Paris or by placement test during registration week

This seminar serves as an advanced study of literature in French, in which students will read relevant texts by French and francophone authors while also consolidating and perfecting their language skills. A major component of the course will be the discussion of literature in French. Students will read both excerpted texts and works in their entirety and will build skills of reading comprehension and literary analysis in French. The course is aimed both at students planning on studying abroad their junior year and those returning from SLC in Paris. Recent courses for this level have focused on nature in French literature, on fantastic and surreal literature, on autobiography, on women writers, and on Paris in modern literature. 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.

Faculty

La Négritude

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: Intermediate French II, returned from Study Abroad, or placed into this level according to the SLC French proficiency test

The founders of the Négritude movement saw a direct line between how we use words and how we shape the world. Like the Black nationalists of the 1960s and ’70s, who championed Black power and informed the world that “Black is beautiful,” these artists and intellectuals from French colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and South America who met in Paris in the 1930s appropriated the French word nègre and developed a poetics to combat colonialism and racism. They were both poets and politicians: The poet Léopold Senghor became the first president of Senegal, while the Martinician poet and playwright Aimé Césaire became a member of the French National Assembly. In this course, we will study the Négritude movement as a test case for the notion that poetry can serve as a form of social and political action. To better understand where the founders of the Négritude movement were coming from, we will begin our study with an introduction to the history of French colonialism and France’s participation in the triangular slave trade. Using historical documents, we will look at the modern development of the concept of race at a time when cultural support for the slave trade was waning. Some of the themes that we will explore are colonialism and modernism, gender politics, Créolité, and debates around the legacy of Négritude. Readings will include works by Aimé Césaire, Suzanne Césaire, Léopold Senghor, Léon Damas, Jean-Paul Sartre, Paulette Nardal, Jane Nardal, Jean Barnabé, Patrick Chamoiseau, Raphaël Confiant, Franz Fanon, and Maryse Condé.

Faculty