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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.

Announcements

JYA Paris Info Session

Come to the Smith in Paris information session to learn about the wide variety of courses and cultural activities the program has to offer.

Catherine Malabou's lecture "The Clitoris is an Anarchist"

This lecture is free and open to the public.

JYA Geneva Info Session

Come join us for some pizza and learn about the exciting opportunities offered by the Smith in Geneva program.

Presentation of the Major

Join us for the Presentation of the Major.  Bring a friend - light refreshments will be served!

Requirements

  • 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.

Advisers

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

Requirements

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 Jonathan Gosnell.

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.

Director

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.

Eligibility

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).

Presentation

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.

Evaluation

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.

 


Courses

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 101 01 Accelerated Beginning French I 
This elementary French course is designed to give students with no previous experience in French the opportunity to acquire the fundamentals of the French language and Francophone culture. It emphasizes communicative proficiency, the development of oral and listening skills, self-expression and cultural insights. Classroom activities incorporate authentic French material and are focused on acquiring competency in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students must complete both 101 and 103 to fulfill the Latin honors distribution requirement for a foreign language. Enrollment limited to 25. {F} Credits: 5  Jonathan Gosnell
Fall 2022

 

FRN 101 02 Accelerated Beginning French I 
This elementary French course is designed to give students with no previous experience in French the opportunity to acquire the fundamentals of the French language and Francophone culture. It emphasizes communicative proficiency, the development of oral and listening skills, self-expression and cultural insights. Classroom activities incorporate authentic French material and are focused on acquiring competency in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students must complete both 101 and 103 to fulfill the Latin honors distribution requirement for a foreign language. Enrollment limited to 25. {F} Credits: 5  Theresa Brock
Fall 2022

 

FRN 101 03 Accelerated Beginning French I 
This elementary French course is designed to give students with no previous experience in French the opportunity to acquire the fundamentals of the French language and Francophone culture. It emphasizes communicative proficiency, the development of oral and listening skills, self-expression and cultural insights. Classroom activities incorporate authentic French material and are focused on acquiring competency in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students must complete both 101 and 103 to fulfill the Latin honors distribution requirement for a foreign language. Enrollment limited to 25. {F} Credits: 5  Maureen DeNino
Fall 2022

 

FRN 120 01 Intermediate French
An intermediate language course designed for students with two or three years of high school French. Its main objective is to develop cultural awareness and the ability to speak and write in French through exposure to a variety of media (literary texts, newspaper articles, ads, clips, films, videos). Students completing the course normally enter 220. Enrollment limited to 18.  {F} Credits: 4  Christiane Metral
Fall 2022

 

FRN 120 02 Intermediate French
An intermediate language course designed for students with two or three years of high school French. Its main objective is to develop cultural awareness and the ability to speak and write in French through exposure to a variety of media (literary texts, newspaper articles, ads, clips, films, videos). Students completing the course normally enter 220. Enrollment limited to 18.  {F} Credits: 4  Christiane Metral
Fall 2022


FRN 220 01 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  Carl Cornell
Fall 2022


FRN 220 02 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
Fall 2022


FRN 220 03 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  Christiane Metral
Fall 2022

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.


FRN 230bl 01  Banlieue Lit
In this course, students study fiction, memoir, slam poetry and hip-hop authored by residents of France’s multi-ethnic suburbs and housing projects, also known as the "banlieues" and "cités". We examine the question of whether "banlieue" authors can escape various pressures: to become native informants; to write realistic rather than fantastical novels; to leave the “ghetto”; to denounce the sometimes difficult traditions, religions, neighborhoods and family members that have challenged but also molded them. Often seen as spaces of regression and decay, the "banlieues" nevertheless produce vibrant cultural expressions that beg the question: Is the "banlieue" a mere suburb of French cultural life, or more like one of its centers? Students may receive credit for only one section of FRN 230. Enrollment limited to 18. Basis for the major. Prerequisite: 220 or permission of the instructor.  {F} {L} WI Credits: 4   Mehammed A. Mack
Fall 2022


FRN 230en 01  Encountering Nature in the Early Modern World: Flora, Fauna, Empire
"Encountering Nature” examines how writers from the 16th–18th centuries experienced their natural settings. These settings varied widely, encompassing both Europe and the Americas during early phases of colonization. The great variety of flora and fauna in these different locales prompted questions about what nature signified and for whom. How did such factors as gender, religion, ethnicity, and social class combine with political influences in each century to cause shifting understandings and representations of the natural world? To explore this question, we will analyze literary texts in multiple genres alongside illustrations, maps, paintings, historical documents, and audiovisual materials.  {F} {L} WI Credits: 4  Theresa Brock
Fall 2022


FRN 230tww 01  Women Writers of Africa and the Caribbean
An introduction to works by contemporary women writers from Francophone Africa and the Caribbean. Topics studied include colonialism, exile, motherhood and intersections between class and gender. Our study of these works and of the French language is informed by attention to the historical, political and cultural circumstances of writing as a woman in a former French colony. Texts include works by Mariama Bâ, Maryse Condé, Yamina Benguigui and Marie-Célie Agnant. Students may receive credit for only one section of FRN 230.   {F} {L} WI   Credits: 4  Dawn Fulton
Fall 2022


FRN 252cl 01  Cities of Light: Urban Spaces in Francophone Film
From Paris to Fort-de-France, Montreal to Dakar, we study how various filmmakers from the Francophone world present urban spaces as sites of conflict, solidarity, alienation and self-discovery. How do these portraits confirm or challenge the distinction between urban and non-urban? How does the image of the city shift for “insiders” and “outsiders”? Other topics to be discussed include immigration, colonialism and globalization. Works by Sembène Ousmane, Denys Arcand, Mweze Ngangura and Euzhan Palcy.  {F} Credits: 4  Dawn Fulton
Fall 2022


FRN 253 01  The Lady, the Knight, the King
An introduction to the main cultural and literary currents that shaped Medieval France, a period whose values and concept of "literature" were dramatically different from our own. We focus on the rise of courtliness and the invention of romantic love, the legend of King Arthur and the transmission of Celtic themes, adultery and madness, magic and the chivalric quest, and the ribald humour of the fabliaux. Readings include The Romance of the Rose by Guillaume de Lorris, Tristan and Yseut, Marie de France’s Lanval, Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain, troubadour and trouvère lyric, and selected fabliaux. Prerequisite: FRN 230.  {F} {L} Credits: 4  Eglal Doss-Quinby
Fall 2022


FRN 270 01  Language and Social Justice 
A course in advanced composition for students who wish to improve their mastery of some of the more difficult points of French grammar, syntax and usage, as they reflect on the role of language in shaping individual and national identity, from the 16th century to the present day. Readings and discussions on topics such as linguistic policy and cultural politics, the feminization of the French language, and defending against the invasion of English by legislating the use of French within France and Quebec. Prerequisite: normally, one course in French studies beyond 230, or permission of the instructor.    {F} {L} Credits: 4  Maureen DeNino
Fall 2022


FRN 299 01  Teaching Romance Languages: Theories and Techniques on Second Language Acquisition
Offered as ITL 299, FRN 299, POR 299, and SPN 299. The course explores the issues in world language instruction and research that are essential to the teaching of Romance languages. Special focus will be on understanding local, national and international multilingual communities as well as theories, methods, bilingualism, and heritage language studies. Topics include the history of Romance languages, how to teach grammar/vocabulary, the role of instructors, and feedback techniques. The critical framing provided will help students look at schools as cultural sites, centers of immigration and globalization. Class observations and scholarly readings help students understand the importance of research in the shaping of the pedagogical practice of world languages. Prerequisite:At least 4 semesters (or placement to equivalent level) of a Romance language taught at Smith (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish or French). Enrollment limited to 25.  {F}{S}   Credits: 4  Simone M. Gugliotta
Fall 2022

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 380tw 01  Topics in French Cultural Studies: Travel Writing and Self-Discovery: The Language of Business and International Trade
A survey of Francophone travel writing from the 16th to the 21st centuries. Students are exposed to a literary form that achieved popularity and cultural prestige early on, was then significantly challenged and diversified, and is presently enjoying a resurgence. We consider fictional and nonfictional accounts reflecting different geographies of travel and migration. While early voyagers tended to assert the relative superiority of French culture, subsequent generations of travelers abandoned discovery for self-discovery, and critiqued colonialism instead of indigenous cultures. Countries and regions surveyed include the Holy Land, Turkey, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Central and West Africa, the United States, Iran, France, Indonesia and Thailand.  {F}{L} Credits: 4  Mehammed A. Mack
Fall 2022

 

 

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 

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 2022–23, we welcome three students from Paris and two from Geneva.

Paris

  • Cécile Fonbonne (Université de Paris IV)
  • Irina Jameron (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris)
  • Yaël Le Goff (Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Val de Seine)

Geneva

  • Roxane Campiche (Université de Genève)
  • Amandine Lacroix (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

 

Contact

Department of French Studies

Seelye Hall 307
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3056
Fax: 413-585-3339

Administrative Assistant:
Cora Lee Drew

Individual appointments may be arranged directly with the faculty.