French

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The French program welcomes students of all levels, from beginners to students with several years of French. Our courses in Bronxville are closely associated with Sarah Lawrence’s excellent French program in Paris, and our priority is to give our students the opportunity to study in Paris during their junior or senior year. This may include students who start at the beginning level in their first year at Sarah Lawrence, provided that they fully dedicate themselves to learning the language. 

Our program in Paris is of the highest level, with all courses taught in French and with the possibility for students to take courses (with conference work) at French universities and other Parisian institutions of higher education. Our courses in Bronxville are, therefore, fairly intensive in order to bring every student to the level required to attend our program in Paris. 

Even for students who don’t intend to go abroad with Sarah Lawrence, the French program provides the opportunity to learn the language in close relation to French culture and literature, starting at the beginning level. At all levels except for beginning, students conduct individual conference projects in French on an array of topics—from medieval literature to Gainsbourg and the culture of the 1960s, from Flaubert’s Madame Bovary to avant-garde French female playwrights. On campus, the French program tries to foster a Francophile atmosphere with our newsletter La Feuille, our French Table, our French ciné-club, and other francophone events—all run by students, along with two French assistants who come to the College every year from Paris.

In order to allow students to study French while pursuing other interests, students are also encouraged, after their first year, to take advantage of our Language Third and Language/Conference Third options that allow them to combine the study of French with either another language or a lecture on the topic of their choice.

During their senior year, students may also think about applying to the English assistantship program in France, which is run by the French Embassy in Washington DC. Every year, Sarah Lawrence graduates are admitted to this selective program and spend a year in France, working in local schools for the French Department of Education.

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2017-2018 Courses

French

Beginning French: Language and Culture

Open , Seminar—Year

This course is conducted in French.

This class will allow students to develop an active command of the fundamentals of spoken and written French. In class and in group conferences, emphasis will be placed on activities relating to students’ daily lives and to French and francophone culture, using a variety of 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.

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Beginning French: Language and Culture

Open , Seminar—Year

This course is conducted in French.

This class will allow students to develop an active command of the fundamentals of spoken and written French. In class and in group conferences, emphasis will be placed on activities relating to students’ daily lives and to French and francophone culture using a variety of 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.

Faculty
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Intermediate French I: Language Consolidation and Introduction to Caribbean Literature

Open , Seminar—Year

Course conducted in French. Admission by placement test to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester or by completion of Beginning French.

The main objective of this course is to help students strengthen and master their grammar skills and vocabulary and improve their reading comprehension of literary texts. The class is an introduction to francophone Caribbean literature, with a particular emphasis on some foundational novels that epitomize the most current themes of Caribbean history from enslavement to modern times. In the first section of this course, while we aim at building and consolidating grammatical structures, students will also explore, through selected authentic texts, the everyday life of people of the francophone Antillean experience during slavery and beyond the emancipation era. Individual conferences will offer an opportunity for students to further explore various themes, either related to the class or based on each student’s personal interests. Various historical themes may include, but are not limited to, colonization, resistance, memory, languages, identities or postcolonial Caribbean identities, emancipation, departmentalization, and so forth. Students who successfully complete a beginning- and an intermediate-level French course are eligible to study in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year.

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Intermediate French I: French Language and Culture Through Film

Open , Seminar—Year

Admission by placement test to be taken during interview week at the beginning of the fall semester or by completion of Beginning French.

This course will offer a systematic review of French grammar and is designed to strengthen and deepen the student’s mastery of grammatical structures and vocabulary. Students will also begin to use linguistic concepts as tools for developing their analytic writing. Through a variety of French films, we will combine the study of language with the investigation of aspects of contemporary French culture, including social, political, and economic issues. We will review the history of French cinema and draw upon other media—including newspapers and literary texts—to enable students to develop their language proficiency, cultural awareness, and appreciation of 20th- and 21st-century France. 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.

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Intermediate French II: The Writing of Everyday Life in French 20th-Century Literature

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Course conducted in French. 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).

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 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.

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Intermediate French III/Advanced French: Paris, Literary Capital

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks, the French publishing world witnessed a surprising phenomenon: The translation of Ernest Hemingway’s 1964 memoir of Paris, A Moveable Feast, became a runaway bestseller. The remarkable resonance of Hemingway’s book in the wake of a national tragedy highlights the profound link between literature and the French capital. This course will explore that bond by analyzing how French and francophone writers have represented Paris from the late 18th century to the present day. We will draw from a variety of genres and traditions—realist novels, prose poems, avant-garde texts, and critical essays—in order to analyze the relationship between the spaces of the city and the form of literature. Our focus will be on the many faces of the capital: We will consider the Paris of revolution and daily life, of tradition and modernity, of community and isolation. Topics to be considered will include the literature of monuments; streets and the flâneur; wealth, capital, and urbanization; history and memory; peripheries, zones, and the banlieue; and Paris as symbol of the French nation. Authors to be studied may include Mercier, Hugo, Balzac, Baudelaire, Zola, Apollinaire, Breton, Beauvoir, Duras, Barthes, Perec, Ernaux, Guène, and Vasset. We will also watch several films where Paris features prominently. Students will review the finer points of French grammar, improve their writing skills through regular assignments, and develop tools for literary analysis and commentary.

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First-Year Studies: What We Do With Words: Literature and Theory, 19th-21st Centuries

Open , FYS—Year

In this class, we will study major works of modern and contemporary Western literature in relation to theoretical and philosophical texts that helped shape the way we think today. We will try to better understand how writers felt compelled to invent new ways of speaking and how this fundamental change to how we relate to language also affected the way we think. At the same time, literary texts have become a crucial source of inspiration for philosophy and other disciplines such as linguistics and psychoanalysis. We will study this dialogue between creators and theorists, trying to better understand how they inspire and illuminate each others. Plato and Homer, Benjamin and Baudelaire, Heidegger and Hölderlin, Barthes and Balzac, Deleuze and Proust, Derrida and Poe, Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir are some examples of the dialogues that we will discuss. Other authors studied will include Walt Whitman, Gustave Flaubert, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, James Baldwin, and Tony Morrison. Over the course of the year, we will focus on the art of essay writing and acquire a better understanding of major literary and philosophical concepts in order to become more keen readers of all texts. Although the focus of this class is primarily on literature, our seminar discussions will also allow us to have conversations on important issues related to feminism and women studies, race, and gender.

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