Ann T. Delehanty
Early modern prose, classical theatre, medieval literature, philosophy and literature.
Hugh M. Hochman
Twentieth-century French poetry and prose, theories of the lyric, philosophy of language.
Luc A. Monnin
Eighteenth-century French literature and culture, history and theory of language, history of ideas, visual arts.
Catherine A. Witt
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry, modernity and modernism, avant-garde theatre, cinema studies.
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 nineteenth century.
- Ability to write French at the equivalent of French 320.
- French 470.
Recommended but not required:
- French 320 is strongly advised.
- Humanities 211–212 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. From bird-men to werewolves, from crumbling political and social structures to farcical judicial proceedings, this course explores several eleventh- to fifteenth-century literary works that stage a “culture clash” of one kind or another. Through formal analysis and close reading of works from several different genres (including the chanson de geste, the lai, the romance, the farce, and the fabliau), we will be particularly interested in how the figuring of discord might suggest certain paradigm shifts in the period. We will ask how these works navigate, for example, questions of cultural or gender difference, changing social structure, or the waning of different institutions. Works will include The Chanson de Roland, the Lais of Marie de France, a romance of Chrétien de Troyes, La Mort du roi Arthur, La Farce de Maistre Pathelin, and several other short works. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 332 - Early Modern French Literature and Culture
Early Modern Orientalism
Full course for one semester. In this course, we will examine French works of literature from the medieval and early modern period texts that represent non-French characters, especially those who are portrayed as exotic, dangerous, or mysterious. We will ask whether there is a corollary relationship between the orientalism (in its most general sense as a distorted representation of those from other cultures) of these works and the development of French national identity. We will discuss how these texts present other cultures and what stakes they have in painting some of these characters in a negative light. We will also be reading excerpts from several early modern texts that advance what we might now call race theory to help us to unpack the ways in which people from other cultures were represented and understood in the period. Primary texts will include La Chanson de Roland; Rabelais, Quart livre; Montaigne, “Des cannibales”; Jean de Léry, Histoire d’un voyage fait en la terre du Brésil; Cyrano de Bergerac, Les Etats et empires de la Lune; Molière, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme; Racine, Bajazet; Mme de Lafayette, Zayde; Montesquieu, Les Lettres persanes. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
Not offered 2017–18.
French 333 - The French Enlightenment
Full course for one semester. This course examines the literature of eighteenth-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.
Not offered 2017–18.
French 334 - Nineteenth-Century French Literature and Culture
Full course for one semester. This course centers on the notion of l’imaginaire fantastique and looks at the peculiar fascination with the supernatural and the uncanny that permeates nineteenth-century French literature and art. We will not only read a selection of short stories, poems, and essays of the period, but also consider a variety of contemporary media (painting, photography, and early cinema) with an eye to understanding how the supernatural was conceived and recaptured and what new problems of representation and formal experimentations came in its wake. Authors studied include major French writers and poets, such as Nodier, Mérimée, Gautier, Balzac, Hugo, Baudelaire, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Villiers de L’Isle Adam, and Maupassant, as well as influential “theorists” of the uncanny, such as E.T.A. Hoffmann, Poe, Marx, Freud, Caillois, Todorov, and Cixous. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
Not offered 2017–18.
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 seventeenth to the nineteenth 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 La Fayette, Laclos, Rousseau, Balzac, and Flaubert. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
Not offered 2017–18.
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.
Not offered 2017–18.
French 343 - Late Twentieth-Century 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 - Seventeenth-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.
Not offered 2017–18.
French 363 - Francophone Literature
Full course for one semester. In this introduction to Francophone literature, we will analyze works by authors who spent time living under French rule in former colonies and protectorates, such as Algeria and Morocco, and on French-administered islands like Guadeloupe, Haiti, and Martinique. We will trace the techniques through which Francophone writers recount phenomena and events that colonial and imperial authorities had sought to expunge from collective memory. Students will explore how twentieth- and twenty-first-century authors have deployed an array of literary strategies for resisting oppression and marginalization, boldly creating their own stories of the past that invite readers and viewers to question official versions of history. We will analyze works by Aimé Césaire, Assia Djebar, Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, Driss Chraïbi, Simone Schwarz-Bart, and others. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
Not offered 2017–18.
French 371 - Nineteenth-Century French Poetry and Poetics
Full course for one semester. This course explores the renewal of French lyric poetry in the postrevolutionary years and the daring experimentations with form and subject matter to which it lent itself throughout the nineteenth century. Through reading a wide selection of compositions and essays by poets such as Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Hugo, Bertrand, Nerval, Baudelaire, Siefert, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Mallarmé, students will not only develop reading skills to identify and analyze formal evidence of the upturning of lyric conventions, but also reflect on how the changes relate to literary factors (e.g., the practice of translation, women’s subversion of lyric conventions, transnational dialogues about poetry and its relation to other arts, and so forth) as well as external political, social, and cultural realities that contributed to determining the place of poetry and the modalities of its production within an emerging modern, consumerist, and increasingly democratic society. Topics discussed include theories of the lyric, the gendering of poetry, revolution, literary sociability, art for art’s sake, irony, modernity, hermeticism, music, and abstraction. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 381 - Twentieth-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 - Twentieth-Century French Theater
Full course for one semester. This course explores a wide spectrum of experimental and theoretical avenues in twentieth-century French theater. Taking the notion 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, Tzara, Anouilh, Sartre, Beckett, Ionesco, Césaire, Genet, Koltès, and Novarina) and major theoreticians of avant-garde theater (Artaud, Brecht, Dort, Sartre, Brooks, Mnouchkine, et al.). In counterpoint to the study of these authors, the course will also discuss the demise of the very notions of “author” and “spectacle” and its impact on theatrical creation in the aftermath of mai 68. Class activities include close reading, discussion, video footage analysis, and a performance. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
Not offered 2017–18.
French 383 - 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 that they name, figure, or represent. 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.
Not offered 2017–18.
French 390 - Postwar French Cinema (1945–1975)
Full course for one semester. This course examines the testimonial and critical function taken on by French cinema in the second half of the twentieth century. Focusing on films that problematize significant trends or crises in this historical period (the Occupation, the Holocaust, decolonization, the rise of consumer society, student protests in May ’68, etc.), we will discuss what formal strategies allow the filmic medium to propose critical alternatives to traditional historical narratives. Additionally, we will read key essays by film critics and theorists that examine the commitment of postwar French cinema to politics and ethics. Films viewed include works by filmmakers Resnais, Ophüls, Bresson, Tati, Varda, Truffaut, Godard, Marker, and Eustache, as well as various cinétracts. Course includes weekly film screenings. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.
French 391 - French Literature and Cultural Studies
Full course for one semester. In an age when truth is conflated with “alternative facts” 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 fiction, 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, Mme d’Aulnoy, Mme de Graffigny, Rousseau, Flaubert, Sartre, Foucault, Lyotard, Sarraute, Beckett, and Marie NDiaye as well as contemporary theory. 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.