Students majoring in French focus on acquiring both 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 the 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 at Reed College must take the placement examination given every year during orientation. 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 do not have prior experience in the language can pursue the major 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 both showing proficiency at the level of French 210 and then completing two 300-level courses numbered higher than 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 FrenchFull course for one year. A study of elements of grammar, speaking, and reading. Conference.
French 210 - Second-year FrenchFull 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
French 331 - French Literature and Culture of the Middle AgesFull 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 is in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Not offered 2010–11.
French 332 - Early Modern French Literature and Culture
Full course for one semester. This course will look at texts from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the 17th century that feature encounters with another culture. We will examine how those encounters reveal not only how writers imagined alterity but also how they imagined themselves. We will ask how constructions of cultural superiority (or inferiority) and essential values give rise to increasingly nationalistic models of identity. Readings will include the Chanson de Roland, Lais of Marie de France, Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, Rabelais’ Tiers livre, Essais of Michel de Montaigne, selections from Jean de Léry’s Histoire d’un voyage en terre de Brésil, Descartes’ Discours de la méthode, and Racine’s Bajazet. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 333 - The French EnlightenmentFull 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, and 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.
French 334 - 19th-Century French Literature and CultureFull course for one semester. Focusing on the topic of imaginaire fantastique, this course looks at the fascination in 19th-century literature, music, art and culture with the supernatural and the uncanny. Reading a selection of short stories, poems, literary correspondence, and philological texts from nineteenth-century France, we will examine how various aesthetic, scientific, religious, and spiritualist discourses linked to the supernatural shaped the emergence of new genres, narrative techniques, and literary tropes. Authors studied include major French writers and poets (Nodier, Mérimée, Gautier, Balzac, Nerval, Hugo, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Villiers de L’Isle Adam, and Maupassant) as well as influential “theorists” of the uncanny (E.T.A. Hoffmann, Poe, Freud, and Caillois, among others). Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam.
French 341 - French Narrative and the Novel Prior to RealismFull 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 2010–11.
French 342 - Novel from Flaubert to the New Novel: The Collapse of Realism and the Undoing of the SubjectFull 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. Not offered 2010–11.
French 343 - Contemporary French FictionFull 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 DramaFull 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. Not offered 2010–11.
French 363 - Francophone LiteratureFull 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 2010–11.
French 371 - 19th-Century French Poetry and PoeticsFull 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, and modernity. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 381 - 20th-Century French Poetry and PoeticsFull 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. Not offered 2010–11.
French 382 - 20th-Century French TheatreFull 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 in-class readings and by watching excerpts of actual performances. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. Not offered 2010–11.
French 400 - Introduction to Literary TheorySee Literature 400 for description.
French 451 - Special Topics in French Literature
The Matter of Poetry
Full course for one semester. This course focuses on the 20th-century French poets Francis Ponge and Yves Bonnefoy, whose work displays an acute interest in materiality. By looking in depth at the poetry and essays of these authors, we will explore questions arising at the intersection of literary texts and the world of material things and bodies. Can language influence our understanding of the real? Do texts declare their autonomy from a world of referents and fortify their own self-enclosure? Do Ponge and Bonnefoy conceive of poetry as a response to a sense of the tragic in the 20th century? In addition to Ponge and Bonnefoy, we will read other pertinent authors such as Camus, Sartre, Derrida, and Pascal. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement examination. Conference.