Skip Navigation
A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.

French Studies

"Up Close" photo by Collin Benedict '17J

Explore the art of French, engage with its cultures and rediscover your own through others’ perspectives. The Department of French Studies offers about 30 courses in French language, literature and culture. Students build linguistic skills from beginning through advanced levels in grammar, phonetics and composition and use state-of-the-art technology to assist in their learning. French studies examines issues such as immigration, secularism, identity, gender and education across space (France and Francophone countries) and time, and at the crossroads of literary studies, art, history, linguistics and social sciences. Because the study of foreign languages and cultures lies at the heart of a liberal education, the department carries out its mission across disciplinary and institutional boundaries, and by directing and overseeing Smith’s Study Abroad programs in Paris and Geneva.

Above: Paris cityscape from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Picture taken by Collin Benedict ’16 during junior year abroad.



C'est la Table française en plein air !  Thanks to all who joined us for a well-attended inaugural outdoor French table!  We will gather again on Seelye Lawn on Tuesday, September 28, from 12:15 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Please bring your lunch and join us for informal French conversation.  All levels of French are welcome.  In case of inclement weather, the gathering will be postponed until October 5.

New Issue of Global Impressions from Lewis Global Studies Center focuses on Bilingualism

Global Impressions Issue XVI, “Language Stories,” features moving and beautifully written essays by ten students and alums reflecting on the roles languages have played in their lives. Read the issue.

Massachusetts Secondary Foreign Language Licensure and Master of Arts in Teaching

Students majoring in French can pursue Massachusetts Secondary Foreign Language Licensure (5-12) as an undergraduate. French majors who do not pursue teaching licensure as undergraduates have the opportunity to pursue a master of arts in teaching at Smith following graduation. For questions, please contact Nicole Walsh of the Department of Education and Child Development.

Interview with Professor Emeritus James Sacré

Read an interview in Télérama with Doris Silbert Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and renowned poet James Sacré. The interview mentions Professor Sacré’s long-standing collaboration with translator David Ball, professor emeritus of French.


  • As students learn and master the French language, they gain the ability to listen and speak articulately; read and analyze texts, cultural artifacts and digital media critically; and write clearly.

  • As they explore French and Francophone cultures, society, history, institutions and thought, they develop historical and comparative depth of perspective.

  • As they take courses in other departments and/or programs, they build an interdisciplinary framework to develop a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the French and Francophone world.

  • As they engage with communities beyond Smith through study, internships, volunteer and other work opportunities abroad, they become global citizens who value tolerance, appreciate diversity and thereby become prepared to face the challenges of living in a rapidly changing world.


Eglal Doss-Quinby, Dawn Fulton, Martine Gantrel, Jonathan Gosnell, Mehammed Mack, and Christiane Métral.


Ten 4-credit courses or the equivalent at the 200 level or above, including the following:

  1. The basis for the French studies major: FRN 230;
  2. One language course at the advanced level (270, 385, or equivalent taken abroad);
  3. One course in French studies (FRN designation) on literature or culture before 1900;
  4. Three 4-credit courses in French studies (in addition to the advanced language course) at the 300 level or higher, of which two must be taken in the senior year.

In consultation with their major adviser, a student may count toward the major up to two 4-credit courses taught in English provided they are related to French studies, and up to two 4-credit courses in fields unrelated to French studies provided they are taught in French.

Normally, one course counting toward the major may be taken for an S/U grade. In consultation with their adviser, a student may take additional S/U credits toward the major. Students considering graduate school in the humanities are encouraged to take WLT 300 Literary Theory and Literary Practice: Conflicts and Consensus.



The Department of French Studies offers an online placement exam to test students' proficiency in reading, writing and understanding spoken French. The exam is accessible on Moodle and is open through the registration period. To access the test after registration, please email Dawn Fulton.

Students who have taken at least one year of French but have not taken the ETS French Achievement or Advanced Placement tests should take this exam. Even if you have taken those tests, we encourage all students to take the placement exam; it helps the department in advising students about course selection.

To evaluate how well students are achieving departmental learning goals, the Department of French Studies developed a series of assessment activities undertaken at different stages of a student’s career at Smith as follows:

  • Under the guidance of their major adviser, students are asked to self-assess their proficiency in French, using tools created by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), an internationally recognized set of guidelines used across Europe to describe foreign language proficiency in listening, reading, speaking and writing according to reference levels from A1 to C2.
  • Students enrolled in the Smith Program Abroad in Paris are required to take the TCF (Test de Connaissance du Français, the equivalent of the TOEFL for English speakers) in the spring semester prior to their departure and at the end of their junior year abroad. The TCF is an official French language test administered by the French Ministry of Education, which evaluates student proficiency from A1 to C2 according to the CEFR standard. Students enrolled in the Smith Program Abroad in Geneva take a similar test upon their arrival in Geneva and before their departure.


Dawn Fulton

430d Thesis (8 credits)
Full-year course offered each year

431 Thesis (8 credits)
Offered fall semester each year

The honors program is for French studies majors who desire to conduct independent research on a specific aspect of French or Francophone literature or culture during their senior year. Students are eligible to apply for the honors program either at the completion of the second semester of their junior year or before the end of the second week of classes in September of their senior year.


A student who applies to do honors work must have a 3.5 GPA in French studies. Honors students work closely with a faculty adviser to conceptualize and carry out study that culminates in a paper of about 50-80 pages in length or an equivalent project; this work is done either as FRN 430d (a full-year, 8 credit course, with thesis or project due by mid April of the senior year) or FRN 431 (a fall-semester, 8-credit course, with thesis or project due on the first day of the second semester of the senior year).


The thesis or project may be presented in either English or French; the choice of language must be approved by the thesis adviser and the director of honors. FRN 430d or FRN 431 may substitute for one of the two 300-level French courses required in the senior year to complete the French studies major.


In the second semester of the senior year, the honors candidate will take an oral examination based on her thesis or project and the field in which it was written. Evaluation of honors work for the degree with "honors," "high honors," or "highest honors" is based on the following:

  • 10 percent on the oral examination
  • 60 percent on the evaluation of the final thesis project by the thesis adviser and a second reader
  • 30 percent on the candidate's grades in the French studies major

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I prepare to do an honors thesis?
Students contemplating honors work should begin talking to professors in their area of interest during their junior year, at the latest. Many honors projects have developed from interests fostered by course work done at Smith or on a Junior Year Abroad.

How do I find an honors thesis adviser?
Most students use course experience or consult the department website to identify professors whose research interests coincide with theirs. The departmental director of honors can also be a resource for matching student interests to faculty expertise. The next step is to contact the relevant faculty member(s) to discuss the possibility of doing an honors project.

How do I apply for honors?
Interested students should consult the departmental honors section of the class deans website for complete information on applying for honors and for information on funding resources.

Can I do honors if I go abroad junior year?
Yes. In fact, many honors projects ideas begin on a Junior Year Abroad program. You should be prepared to approach your potential Smith adviser while you are still abroad. 

What are the benefits of doing a thesis or honors project?
The honors project provides you the unique opportunity of immersing yourself in a research project to greater depth than anything else you will experience in your undergraduate studies. Your research and writing skills will develop immensely during the process. Many students derive great satisfaction from bringing an idea to full development and expression in an honors project.

What are the disadvantages to doing an honors thesis?
A thesis requires an enormous commitment of time and intellectual energy. The 8-credit thesis may mean that you take fewer courses during your senior year, which may limit your options for studying a wide variety of subjects. Some students report being intimidated by the writing commitment. However, if you think of the thesis as a related group of 3-4 papers, each 15-20 pages in length, accompanied by an introduction and conclusion, the task becomes feasible.



Please check the course catalog for up-to-date information. You can also see the Five College course schedule.

All classes and exams are conducted in French with the exception of cross-listed courses, unless otherwise indicated.

FRN 103 Accelerated Beginning French II 
This second-semester French course allows students to acquire the basic elements of spoken and written French. They learn how to express themselves on a variety of topics and in everyday life situations as they connect to the Francophone world through authentic cultural material and multimedia activities. Students completing the course normally enter 220. Enrollment limited to 18 per section. Prerequisite: 101 or equivalent. {F} Credits: 5
Jonathan Gosnell, Christiane Métral
Spring 2021

FRN 220 High Intermediate French
Review of communicative skills through writing and class discussion. Materials include two movies, a comic book and two novels. Prerequisite: three or four years of high school French; 103 or 120, or permission of the instructor. Students completing the course normally enter 230. Enrollment limited to 18 per section. {F} Credits: 4
Maureen DeNino
Spring 2021

FRN 385 Advanced Studies in Language 
Topics Course. 

Global French: The Language of Business and International Trade
An overview of commercial and financial terminology against the backdrop of contemporary French business culture, using case studies, French television and newspapers, and the internet. Emphasis on essential technical vocabulary, reading and writing business documents, and oral communication in a business setting. Prerequisite: a 300-level French course, a solid foundation in grammar, and excellent command of everyday vocabulary, or permission of the instructor. {F} Credits: 4 
Eglal Doss-Quinby
Normally offered in alternate years

Please check the course catalog for up-to-date information. You can also see the Five College course schedule.

All classes and exams are conducted in French with the exception of cross-listed courses, unless otherwise indicated.

FRN 230 Colloquium in French Studies
Topics course.

A gateway to more advanced courses. These colloquia develop skills in expository writing and critical thinking in French. Materials include novels, films, essays and cultural documents. Students may receive credit for only one section of 230. Enrollment limited to 18. Basis for the major. Prerequisite: 220, or permission of the instructor.

Consumers, Culture and the French Department Store 
How have French stores and shopping practices evolved since the grand opening of Le Bon Marché in 1869? In what ways have megastores and e-commerce influenced French "culture"? This course examines representations of mass consumption in literature, the press, history, and analyses of French popular and bourgeois traditions, paying particular attention to the role of women in the transactions and development of culture. {F}{L} Credits: 4 
Jonathan Gosnell
Spring 2021

French Calligraphies: Contemporary Chinese Women’s Writing 
France is home to the largest overseas Chinese community in Western Europe. This course looks at how Francophone women writers and artists of Chinese origin critique and celebrate French culture in their work.  Focusing on contemporary fiction, film and graphic art, we consider the role of canonical French literature during the Cultural Revolution, portrayals of Sinophone cultures in France and the relationship between language and stereotype. Through the lens of gendered and multigenerational immigration narratives, we also study such topics as translation, food, sexuality and exile. {F}{L} WI Credits: 4
Dawn Fulton
Interterm 2021

Tahitian Letters: Island Paradise in the French Cultural Imagination
“I thought I had been transported to the garden of Eden”: the explorer Bougainville’s 1771 description of the abundance and beauty of “Taïti” set the tone for two centuries of exoticism in French literature and art. This course will explore legacies of Enlightenment, colonialism, feminism, and postcolonialism through the shifting representations of this so-called island paradise. Readings include travel narratives, philosophical texts, poetry, and novels by Rousseau, Diderot, Josephine de Montbart, Charles Baudelaire, Pierre Loti and Chantal Spitz. Works will be approached in historical context, drawing connections with visual culture, global developments and contemporary debates. {F}{L} WI Credits: 4
Maureen DeNino
Spring 2021

FRN 250 Skyping With the French: Cross-Cultural Connections 
Using webcam and video conferencing technology, students have conversations in real time with French students in Paris. We examine youth culture in France and explore fundamental cultural differences between Americans and the French. Topics include cultural attitudes and beliefs, social values and institutions as well as relevant socioeconomic issues. Materials: textbooks, cultural essays, surveys, articles, films and songs. Prerequisite: 230 or higher, or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. {F} {S} Credits: 4 
Christiane Métral
Spring 2021

FRN 252 French Cinema 
Topics course.

An introduction to the study of French and Francophone film. Readings in film criticism. Papers and attendance at weekly screenings required. Course taught in French. Prerequisite: 230, or permission of the instructor. Course may be repeated for credit with a different topic.

Paris on Screen 
Paris is often portrayed by filmmakers as the quintessential romantic setting. Starting with the French New Wave, this course examines films that look at France's capital city differently, as a place where various urban, cosmopolitan and/or diasporic subcultures live side by side, often unbeknownst to one another. Films by directors such as Truffaut, Godard, Varda, Sautet, Rohmer, Denis, Assayas and Klapisch. {A} {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Martine Gantrel-Ford
Spring 2021

FRN 262 After Algeria: Revolution, Republic and Race in Modern France
From the colonial conquest in the early 19th century through independence in 1962, Algeria has evoked passions on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, passions frequently resulting in violence that has not entirely subsided. Through a variety of perspectives and readings, we explore a post-Algerian French society that appears to be permanently marked by its Algerian experience. To what extent has the experience in and of Algeria transformed contemporary French culture? In what ways can one speak of the Algerian experience in revolutionary terms? Prerequisite: 230, or permission of the instructor. {F}{L}{S} Credits: 4
Jonathan Gosnell
Interterm 2021

FRN 282 Topics in 19th- and 20th-Century French Studies 
Topics course. 

From the Personal to the Political: Stories about Moral Dilemmas 
This course is about dilemmas, i.e. moments in life when one has to choose between two valid but mutually exclusive options. It explores how major writers of the 19th and 20th centuries have used moral conflicts in their works to confront what they saw as the most pressing social, political or personal issues of their times. One novel (excerpts), one autofiction, one theater play and one film script provide us with four different, yet complementary venues for examining and debating the moral implications of dilemmas. Works by Hugo, Gide, Camus and Duras. Prerequisite: one course above FRN 230. {F} {L} Credits: 4 
Martine Gantrel-Ford
Spring 2021

FRN 295 French Translation in Practice 
Practicum in French; must be taken concurrently with WLT 150. Students read short texts in translation theory, study translation techniques and strategies, compare versions of translated texts and produce their own translations of French texts. Readings and discussions conducted in French. Prerequisite: two courses above 230, or permission of the instructor. This course does not count as preparation for the Smith Programs Abroad in Paris and Geneva. {F} {L} Credits: 2 
Carolyn Shread
Spring 2021

Please check the course catalog for up-to-date information. You can also see the Five College course schedule.

All classes and exams are conducted in French with the exception of cross-listed courses, unless otherwise indicated.

Prerequisite: two courses in French studies above 230 or permission of the instructor. Course numbers reflect chronological periods and not the level of difficulty.

FRN 340 Topics in 17th- and 18th-Century Literature
Topics course. 

Encountering Others in Ancien Régime France
How was France’s cultural and political identity shaped by its encounters with the Other as it expanded trade and its conquest of foreign political and cultural powers such as the Ottoman empire and the newly discovered nations of the Americas, Africa and Tahiti? How did the concept of the foreigner evolve as confrontations with other nations, other religions, other ethnicities put into question France’s conception of its own society and culture? We examine a range of texts (treatises, pamphlets, novels, theatre, ballet héroïque) in which “otherness” and foreignness is explored. Readings from Montaigne, Molière, Montesquieu, Graffigny, Voltaire, Diderot, Gouges, Duras and Condorcet. {F}{L} Credits: 4
Janie Vanpée
Interterm 2021

FRN 365 Francophone Literature and Culture 
Topics course. 

Food, Hunger, Memory: Literature of the Caribbean 
Food and its absence are persistent themes in Caribbean literature. Cooking and culinary practices serve as a means of preserving cultural identities, yet can also reinforce colonial visions of the Caribbean as an exoticized space. Hunger figures as an indictment of that colonial history and of contemporary global inequities. Through studies of folk tales, short stories, poetry and novels, this course offers an introduction to the literature and major theoretical movements of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Haiti, with a focus on how cultural memory is inscribed in metaphors of consumption. {F}{L} Credits: 4 
Dawn Fulton
Spring 2021

FRN 372 Literature and the News: Writing France in the Age of Print Capitalism
In nineteenth-century France, the emerging periodical press lay at the epicenter of public and cultural life. This course will explore the press from a number of perspectives: the technological breakthroughs and social upheavals that spurred its growth, the major figures and seminal publications that marked its evolution, the debates and scandals sparked by its rise, and the changing roles of hommes and femmes de presse. Readings include articles from major newspapers and magazines, contemporary literary and cultural criticism, and selections from “novels of journalism” by Balzac and Maupassant. Class will introduce students to research in online databases of digitized newspapers. {F}{H}{L} Credits: 4

Maureen DeNino
Spring 2021

Please check the course catalog for up-to-date information. You can also see the Five College course schedule.


Special studies provide a way for students to explore a particular topic or issue not taught in any course offered by the Department of French Studies and in the Five Colleges during the academic year of the proposed special studies.

Students work with a faculty adviser to create a syllabus comprising the description of the proposed special studies, a list of readings, work expectations, assignments and a timeline. The faculty adviser then brings the proposed course description and syllabus to the department for a formal vote.

The faculty adviser and the student normally meet weekly for an hour. Students are expected to write, at a minimum, a 20-page paper, or the equivalent. All work is conducted in French. Special studies carry 4 credits. The final grade is based on a separate grade to evaluate participation and preparation in addition to the grade given to the final paper.

Prerequisites: at least two 300-level courses in French studies; previous coursework on a relevant topic is strongly recommended.

In accordance with college policy, an exceptional special studies can be converted into an honors thesis. See the class deans website for information about departmental honors.

Normally, FRN 404 cannot be repeated for credit.

FRN 404 Special Studies
Admission by permission of the department; normally for junior and senior majors and for qualified juniors and seniors from other departments. Credits: 4
Members of the department
Normally offered each academic year



Emeriti Faculty

David Ball
Professor Emeritus of French Language & Literature and Comparative Literature

Mary Ellen Birkett
Professor Emerita of French Studies

Ann Leone
Professor Emerita of French Studies and of Landscape Studies

Denise Rochat
Professor Emerita of French Studies

James Sacré
Doris Silbert Professor Emeritus in the Humanities (French Language & Literature)

Janie Vanpée
Professor Emerita of French Studies and World Literatures

Lawrence Joseph
Professor Emeritus of French Language & Literature

Marie-José Delage
Professor Emerita of French Language & Literature



Each year the French department is fortunate to work with graduate students who come to Smith College for the Interdisciplinary Studies Diploma Program as part of our exchange with universities in Paris and Geneva. For the academic year 2021–22, we welcome five students from Paris and five from Geneva.


  • Nathan Bercoff (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris)
  • Charlotte Burmeister (Université de Paris VII)
  • Odile Gogibu (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris)
  • Justine Griffart (Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Val de Seine)
  • Chloe Prat (Université de Paris IV)


  • Iliana Bitzberger (Université de Genève)
  • Elsa Cailletaud (Université de Genève)
  • Maéva Chabrier (Université de Genève)
  • Shauna Friis-Lund (Université de Genève)
  • Marilyn Le Jeune (Université de Genève)

Alum Spotlight

Those majoring in and studying French can pursue many different careers. Graduates have gone on to teach at all levels; work in the foreign service, Peace Corps or in the arts; study law, business and medicine; and pursue advanced degrees in French literature, music, translation and theater. 

Every year a number of French majors also successfully apply for one of the 1,500 openings for French teaching assistantships to teach English in a French lycée. Consult the Teaching Assistant Program in France site for the latest information on how to apply.

“After my JYA in Paris, I knew the city of lights was the place I wanted to live. I was hired at ESMOD, the oldest fashion school in the world. I translate marketing materials, prepare for open houses and field applications for courses. Thanks to my French major, I work in a beautiful building in the heart of Paris where I learn more about the French language and culture each day.”
Janan Fugel ’19, Chargée des Étudiants Étrangers, ESMOD France

“I couldn’t have been happier with my experience at Smith. Many of the language skills, literary references and cross-cultural understandings that I used while living abroad, post-graduation, and in my present career as a librarian in the Alliance Française network stem directly from my years as a French major.”
Christianne Beasley ’12, Head Librarian, French Cultural Center of Boston


“Studying French at Smith—especially on the JYA Paris program—ignited my passion for travel and set me on a path to completing a master’s in creative writing and translation. I now write for such magazines as Travel + Leisure, Architectural Digest, DuJour, the Wall Street Journal and many others.”
Laura Itzkowitz ’09, Freelance Travel Writer and Editor


Meredith Duncan ’08

Video still of Meredith Duncan

Alexandra Botti ’08

Video still of Alexandra Botti



Department of French Studies

Wright Hall 102
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3360
Fax: 413-585-3339

Administrative Assistant:
Jennifer Blackburn

Individual appointments may be arranged directly with the faculty.