Reed College Catalog

Ann T. Delehanty

Early modern prose, classical theatre, medieval literature, comparative 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 French literature, poetry and poetics, theories of translation, 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.

Prerequisites
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 320–329 or another 300-level course with consent of the instructor.

For Majors
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.

For Nonmajors
Students wishing to fulfill the Division of Literature and Languages requirement for third-year study in a foreign literature can do so by completing two 300-level courses numbered French 330 or higher.

French House
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.

Language Scholars
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.

Study Abroad
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

  1. A minimum of six units in literature at the 300 and 400 levels, one of which must be in francophone literature and another in literature prior to the nineteenth century.
  2. Ability to write French at the equivalent of French 320.
  3. Junior qualifying examination.
  4. French 470.

Recommended but not required:

  1. French 320 is strongly advised.
  2. Humanities 211–212 and/or 220.

A Minor in French
The goal of the French minor is to achieve proficiency in the French language and a strong understanding of literary and cultural studies. In addition to three courses in French (not in translation) at the 300 level, French minors will need to demonstrate language proficiency by completion of French 210, French 320, or French 321.

Requirements for the Minor

  1. Three units of 300-level French, only one of which may be French 320–329. Students who start French at Reed at the 300 level must take French 320–329 in addition to three other French courses numbered 330 or higher. At least one French literature course numbered 330 or higher must be taken at Reed.
  2. Depending on language proficiency, additional courses or substitutions (see chart below).

Starting Language Course

Language Courses

Other French Courses

Total Units

French 110:

French 110, 210

Three French courses numbered 330 or higher, not in translation (one of these units may be substituted with French 320–329). At least one French literature course numbered 330 or higher must be taken at Reed.

Seven

French 210:

French 210

Three French courses numbered 330 or higher, not in translation (one of these units may be substituted with French 320–329). At least one French literature course numbered 330 or higher must be taken at Reed.

Five

French 320–329:

One of French 320–329

Three French courses not in translation numbered 330 or higher. At least one of these courses must be taken at Reed.

Four

 

French 110 - First-Year French

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester. A study of elements of grammar, speaking, and reading. Conference.

French 210 - Second-Year French

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester. Revision of grammar and elementary composition; readings in philosophy, lyric poetry, novel, and theatre. Prerequisite: French 110 or equivalent. Conference.

French 320 - Advanced French Conversation and Composition

One-unit semester course. This course is designed to help students develop strong written skills and near-native fluency in spoken French through frequent discussions and composition assignments pertaining to French and francophone texts of various genres, as well as a wide variety of cultural materials and media. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. (May not be repeated for credit if previously completed as a yearlong course.)

French 321 - Advanced French Conversation

One-unit semester course. This course is designed to help advanced students develop near-native fluency in spoken French through pronunciation drills, discussions, and diverse types of oral presentations on a broad corpus of cultural materials and media, such as film, fiction and nonfiction literature, theoretical texts, news articles and videos, and podcasts. Students will be evaluated on spontaneous output (such as discussions and oral exams) and rehearsed output (such as recordings and recitations). Class conducted entirely in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 331 - French Literature and Culture of the Middle Ages

One-unit semester course. 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.

Not offered 2022–23.

French 332 - Early Modern French Literature and Culture

One-unit semester course. This course will take “time and narration” as its principal area of inquiry. We will examine French works of literature from the early modern and Enlightenment periods (as well as a few works from the twentieth century that are inspired by these thinkers) that engage with one of the major philosophic questions of the period: the nature of temporality and its relation to representation. We will look especially at the work of Montaigne, Pascal, Racine, Mme de Lafayette, and Rousseau in an effort to discern how their experiments with representing time and the nature of becoming (rather than just being) inspire later twentieth-century thinkers such as Sartre, Deleuze, and Beckett. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 334 - Nineteenth-Century French Literature and Culture

One-unit semester course. 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 2022–23.

French 341 - French Narrative and the Novel Prior to Realism

One-unit semester course. 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 2022–23.

French 342 - Novel from Flaubert to the New Novel: The Collapse of Realism and the Undoing of the Subject

One-unit semester course. 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 2022–23.

French 343 - Late Twentieth-Century French Fiction

One-unit semester course. 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 363 - Introduction to Francophone Literature

One-unit semester course. This course is intended to introduce students to some of the issues (social, historical, and literary) at the core of francophone studies. To this end the syllabus will include literary works and critical essays by authors writing in French from a variety of cultural situations and geographic locations (the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean). It will treat, on the one hand, the thematic presence of the questions of identity, language, resistance to colonial power, religion, race, etc.; and on the other hand, the ways in which these issues become the object of specifically literary or formal analysis. It will seek out the interpenetration of theme and form in francophone works by exploring the ways in which narrative strategies, for example, transpose the problems and struggles of individuals and societies coming to grips with historical and cultural transformations. The authors studied will include Glissant, Schwartz-Bart, Kane, Kourouma, Ben Jelloun, Condé, and Chamoiseau. The syllabus will on occasion include works of theater by Césaire and poetry by Senghor, Bebey, Damas, and Tirolien. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

French 366 - Intro to Haitian Culture and Literature

One-unit semester course. In the last few decades, Haiti has come to be known for repeated calamities: earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts followed by floods and vice versa, dictatorships, cholera, etc. These catastrophes tend to overshadow a truly unique history—Haiti’s is the only successful slave revolution in the Caribbean—and thriving avant-garde movements. In this course, we will explore the relationship between historical conditions and literary form, beginning with Haiti’s 1804 declaration of independence from France. Reading a selection of poetry, novels, and recent short stories with noir leanings, we will think through how, in time, Haitian authors reinvented their literature in the wake of the revolution, and later negotiated the dangerous necessity of writing under the brutal Duvalier dictatorships. Texts by women authors will also allow us to explore what it means to write at the intersection of race and gender. Finally, the prolific Haitian diaspora will help us consider the poetics of exile. Authors will include Jacques Roumain, Frankétienne, Dany Laferrière, and Edwidge Danticat. Discussion in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

French 371 - Nineteenth-Century French Poetry and Poetics

One-unit semester course. This course explores the blossoming of new poetic forms and changing conceptions of poetry and the role of the poet in the years spanning the romantic, Parnassian, and symbolist movements. Through close readings, we will develop a broad understanding of French versification and prosody, but we will also study and discuss various practices and trends that transformed the composition, the diffusion, and even the reading of poetry in this period: the work of translation; the increased circulation of non-Western texts; the dialogue between poetry and other arts such as music and painting; women’s effort to undermine the gendering of the cannon; the mythologization of the poet as prophet, seer, flaneur, or poète maudit; revolutionary politics; the expansion of the press; and so forth. Works studied include poems by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Alphonse de Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Gérard de Nerval, Louis Bertrand, Charles Baudelaire, Louisa Siefert, Judith Gautier, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stéphane Mallarmé. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 381 - Twentieth-Century French Poetry and Poetics

One-unit semester course. This course will focus on poets since Mallarmé and the theoretical, aesthetic, and ethical projects of poetry in the context of modernity. We will explore approaches to reading figurative language and its challenges to representation and referentiality; relationships of poetic language to ordinary speech; the structure of lyric address; selfhood and the modern lyric subject; and the emergence of a poetics of the nonhuman in late modernity. First and foremost, this course aims to develop the skills of close rhetorical reading as the foundation for all analysis and theoretical commentary. Authors studied include Apollinaire, Reverdy, Desnos, Eluard, Ponge, Bonnefoy, Guillevic, Réda, Leiris, and Roubaud. Conducted in French. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference.

French 382 - Modern French and Francophone Theater

One-unit semester course. This course explores a wide spectrum of experimental and theoretical avenues in twentieth- and twenty-first-century French and francophone 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. Texts studied include plays by Jarry, Tzara, Anouilh, Sartre, Beckett, Ionesco, Césaire, Genet, Sarraute, Cixous, Duras, Koltès, and Ndiaye, and theories of avant-garde theater by Artaud, Brecht, Barthes, Lehmann, among others. In counterpoint to the study of these works, the course will also discuss the demise of the very notions of “author” and “spectacle” and the impact of these changes 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 2022–23.

French 383 - The Matter of Poetry

One-unit semester course. 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, or can we conceive of a continuity between text and material reality? How are human beings alienated from nature and how can they be reconciled with it? 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 2022–23.

French 390 - Postwar French Cinema (1945–1975)

One-unit semester course. 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 Melville, Resnais, Bresson, Tati, Varda, Truffaut, Godard, Marker, Eustache, and Akerman, 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-screenings. 

Not offered 2022–23.

French 391 - French Literature and Cultural Studies

One-unit semester course. 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.

Not offered 2022–23.

French 392 - French Connections: The Intertwined Histories of French and American Cinema

One-unit semester course. This course explores the deep connections between French and American cinema, which stem from over a century of reciprocal influences disseminated through powerful images and intersecting discourses on film as an autonomous language and art form. Structured around exchanges among cinephilic filmmakers, actors, camera operators, composers, and defiant critics from both sides of the Atlantic, it offers an introduction to the parallel histories of two major filmic traditions, while also questioning the very notion of national cinema. As we move in time from the contested origins of moving images and the development of national cinemas to the emergence of successive “new waves” to the transnational film industry of today, we will examine how the dialogue between French and American artists contributed to shaping significant periods in film history (silent film, surrealism, poetic realism, the French New Wave, New American Cinema), distinctive genres (the film noir, thriller, teen pic, musical, comedy of manners, road movie), and common themes (alienation, precarity, urban violence, police brutality, exile) in both commercial and independent films. Filmmakers discussed include Alice Guy-Blaché, Germaine Dulac, Maya Deren, Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, Nicholas Ray, Jean-Luc Godard, John Cassavetes, Robert Bresson, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, Charles Burnett, Mambéty, Eric Rohmer, Spike Lee, Mathieu Kassovitz, Agnès Varda, Kelly Reichardt, and Mati Diop. Conducted in English. No previous experience with film analysis is required. Students taking the course for French literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for French credit: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference-screenings. Cross-listed as Literature 392.

French 470 - Thesis

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester.

French 481 - Independent Reading

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Prerequisite: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by examination; approval of instructor and division.