By the time they graduate, students majoring in French will have begun to acquire a critical appreciation of French literature and the ability to express themselves in the spoken and written language. In keeping with Reed’s general educational goals, students are expected to broaden their preparation by pursuing work in humanities, other literatures, and the fine arts.
The members of the French department cover a wide range of literary interests and critical attitudes. The course offerings, organized mostly by genre, cover all important periods and movements in French literature.
In addition to the general course offerings, the department offers seminars on special topics and can arrange independent studies. Recent seminar topics have included contemporary French narrative, French feminist theory, Surrealism in literature and the other arts, Rousseau, Balzac, Flaubert, Baudelaire, and history and French cinema.
Most classes range in size from 10 to 15 students and are conducted primarily in French.
Any student who wishes to enroll in a French course at any level and who has not studied French previously at Reed College must take the placement examination given every year during orientation week. Entering students who place out of second-year language (French 210) will be advised to enroll in French 320 or another 300-level course with consent of the instructor.
Students who wish to major in French and who have not had prior experience in the language can do so by completing French 110 and 210 during their first two years at Reed, or elsewhere. During their last two years they must complete all the course requirements for the major listed below.
Students wishing to fulfill the Division of Literature and Languages requirement for third-year study in a foreign literature can do so by showing proficiency on the French 210 level and then taking any 300-level courses, except French 320.
The French House on campus functions not only as a residence hall, but also as the center for a variety of extracurricular activities, including film evenings and social and cultural events, as well as gatherings with students and faculty from the entire Reed College community.
Each year, Reed hosts two visiting language scholars from France. They provide contact with a native speaker and assist the department in academic and cultural matters.
The French department encourages its majors to spend some time abroad, and to that end it has instituted exchange programs in France with the Université de Rennes II and several campuses of the Université de Paris. The work a student completes abroad in these approved programs is credited toward the Reed degree, and students on financial aid may apply their aid toward the costs.
Requirements for the Major
- A minimum of six units in literature at the 300 and 400 level, at least two of which must be prior to the 19th century.
- Ability to write French at the equivalent of French 320.
- French 470.
Recommended but not required:
- French 320 is strongly advised.
- Latin 110, if possible.
- Humanities 210 and/or 220.
French 110 - First-year French
Full course for one year. A study of elements of grammar, speaking, and reading. Conference.
French 210 - Second-year French
Full course for one year. Revision of grammar and elementary composition; readings in philosophy, lyric poetry, novel, and theatre. Prerequisite: French 110 or equivalent. Conference.
French 320 - Stylistics and Composition
Full course for one year. This course is designed to help students develop strong written and oral skills in French and to familiarize them with the critical uses of a rhetorical vocabulary. Through frequent discussions of regular writing and close-reading assignments we will explore ways to frame a wide range of questions pertaining to French literature from the Middle Ages to the contemporary Francophone novel. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. Fulfills the Group D requirement.
French 331 - French Literature and Culture of the Middle Ages
Full course for one semester. This course will examine the central narratives of Old French Arthurian prose romance: the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere, the ascendancy and passing of Merlin, the treachery of Mordred, and the Grail Quest. Our perspective will be both literary and cultural; our inquiry will range over innovations in narrative form, the conditions of medieval textuality, the mechanics of allegory, and the changing face of royal authority. The course will include a brief introduction to Old French. Conference. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Not offered 2009-10.
French 332 - Early Modern French Literature and Culture
Full course for one semester. This course is intended as a survey of the literature of Renaissance and 17th-century France, though special attention will be paid to the ways in which spatial and especially geographical constructs serve to organize knowledge. Themes will include: translation as literary displacement, travel and homesickness, the quest for knowledge, the rise of relativism, and the place of the picaresque. Readings from Rabelais, Labé, Ronsard, Du Bellay, Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal, Racine, Corneille, and Charles Sorel. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
French 333 - The French Enlightenment
Full course for one semester. This course examines the literature of 18th-century France, with emphasis on the cultural milieu (social, artistic, religious, philosophical, political) in which the texts appeared. We will examine the emergence of the ideology of reason as it is thematized in texts by Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, D’Alembert, Condillac, Rousseau, Condorcet. We will look at key notions that define the Enlightenment and ask how new literary forms shape, promote, or question these ideas. We will also examine forms of popular culture that the scientific and philosophical agenda keeps in the shadows and demonizes as superstition, imagination, or foolishness. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement examination. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
French 334 - 19th-Century French Literature and Culture
Full course for one semester. Reading a selection of novels, short stories, historiography, and literary correspondence from 19th-century France, we will examine the troubling heritage of the French Revolution, the links between economic processes and narrative form, scientific and encyclopedic ambitions in literature, and the place of the fantastic and the macabre. Authors include Balzac, Flaubert, Maupassant, Zola, and Barbey d'Aurevilly. Conference. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Not offered 2009-10.
French 341 - French Narrative and the Novel Prior to Realism
Full course for one semester. An examination of the novel and other narrative forms that developed in France from the 17th to the 19th century. The course will focus on the function of these new narrative forms within their social and historical contexts, with special emphasis on the institutionalized forms of public discourse that developed during the period and the various theories of representation upon which they drew. Authors covered will include Mme. de Lafayette, Prévost, Diderot, Laclos, Rousseau, Mme. de Duras, and Balzac. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
French 342 - Novel from Flaubert to the New Novel: The Collapse of Realism and the Undoing of the Subject
Full course for one semester. The theory and decline of realism in the French novel will be discussed in Flaubert, Proust, Sartre, Robbe-Grillet, and Sarraute. Focusing primarily on the evolution in narrative form from 1850 to 1960, this course will examine the shift in the modern novel from representing social structures or systems objectively to evoking subjectivity and provoking more complex reader-text transactions. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 343 - Contemporary French Fiction
Full course for one semester. This course will examine narrative strategies since the late 1950s and their underlying aesthetic theories. The course will focus on several issues or problems, including the autonomy of the literary text, narrative as a space of encounter between objective reality and the creative imagination, and the construction of the subject through autofiction. How do the formal aspects of prose fiction place into question our experience of the self and the world? To what extent are the self and the world disclosed through narrative, and what is the nature of this process? Readings will include Robbe-Grillet, Perec, Duras, Hébert, Barthes, Modiano, Ernaux, and Condé. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 351 - 17th-Century French Drama
Full course for one semester. In this course, we will examine several plays by Corneille, Racine, and Molière. We will focus on how authority is established in a society where all authority is in question. We will look at the theatrical representation of kings, sultans, courtiers, nobles, doctors, servants, martyrs, and others in order to consider the various sources of power, authority, and sagacity in a political climate where dissimulation, spectacle, and divertissement often got you further than more traditional means. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 363 - Francophone Literature
Full course for one semester. Introduction to Francophone literature of the Caribbean. We will examine 20th-century Caribbean literature written in French including works by Maryse Condé, Patrick Chamoiseau, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Raphaël Confiant, Edouard Glissant, and Aimé Césaire. Through the lens of contemporary postcolonial theory, we will look particularly at how these Caribbean writers figure political and social resistance in their works. We will discuss how these works underscore the inherent tensions between individual, national, and postcolonial identity. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
French 371 - 19th-Century French Poetry and Poetics
Full course for one semester. This course explores the emergence of a new poetic representation of the self in the 19th century and follows its development from the contemplative verses of Lamartine to the typographical experimentations of Mallarmé. Through reading a combination of canonical works (by poets of the Romantic, Parnassian, and Symbolist schools) and popular poetry, students will identify and reflect upon the rhetorical and prosodic innovations that upturned the idea of lyricism in the modern period. Topics include popular culture, the relation between the arts, hermeticism, irony, modernity. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. Not offered 2009-10.
French 381 - 20th-Century French Poetry and Poetics
Full course for one semester. This course will focus on poets since Mallarmé and the theoretical, aesthetic, and ethical projects of poetry in the context of modernity. Poets covered will include Apollinaire, Reverdy, Desnos, Eluard, Ponge, Bonnefoy, Guillevic, Réda, and Roubaud. The course will rely on close rhetorical readings in order to found an understanding of lyric poetry in the modern age, focusing on address, theories of performative language, relationships between figurative and literal language, and the materialism-textualism debate. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 382 - 20th-Century French Theatre
Full course for one semester. This course explores a wide spectrum of experimental and theoretical avenues in 20th-century French theatre. Taking the concept of interprétation
as a point of departure, we will examine the various intersections between modern theories of dramaturgy, acting, and stage production with a view to opening up the theatrical space to new modalities of reading. Authors studied include playwrights (Jarry, Apollinaire, Cocteau, Sartre, Beckett, Genet, Koltès, and Novarina) and major theoreticians of avant-garde theatre (Artaud, Grotowski, Brecht, Brooks, et al.). Students will gain a firsthand insight into the problems of staging and performing the theatrical text through watching excerpts of actual performances and in-class readings. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 400 - Introduction to Literary Theory
See Literature 400 for description.
Literature 400 Description
French 451 - Special Topics in French Literature: The History of Truth and Authenticity from Montaigne to Sartre
Full course for one semester. In an age when truth is conflated with "gut feeling" and facts with spin, it is necessary to investigate how theories of subjectivity, science, and philosophy have successively redefined authenticity, factuality, and the concept of truth itself. We will establish a historical inventory of these changing notions of truth, and analyze how literary works, especially fictions, rely on them to ground their own verisimilitude and meaning. We will read a variety of texts covering five centuries, including texts by Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal, Rousseau, Flaubert, Sartre, and Beckett. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement examination. Conference.
French 470 - Thesis
One-half or full course for one semester or one year.
French 481 - Independent Reading
One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by examination; approval of instructor and division.