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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

Join Us for LA TABLE FRANÇAISE

The French Table meets on Tuesdays this academic year when classes are in session, from 12:15 to 1:00 p.m. in Dining Rooms A & B in Duckett House. Speakers of French at any level are welcome to join us for informal conversation. Access to student dining halls is determined by college policy; the table will meet in person as long as the college is in yellow or green operating mode.

Smith in Paris Program Featured

A recent article in Inspirelle on studying abroad in France features comments from Marie-Madeleine Charlier, administrative director of the Smith in Paris program.

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.

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 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.

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                                                           Ann Leone
Spring 2022

 

FRN 103 01 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: FRN 101 or equivalent. {F} Credits: 5
Christiane Métral
Spring 2022

FRN 103 02 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: FRN 101 or equivalent. {F} Credits: 5
Maureen DeNino
Spring 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
Mary Allen
Spring 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
Mehammed A. Mack
Spring 2022


FRN 385 Advanced Studies in Language 
Topics Course. 
FRN 385bt 01  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
Spring 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 230cw 01  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
Spring 2022

FRN 230fr 01  "Femmes Revolutionaires" -- Women and Gender in 18th Century France 
What were women’s aspirations and occupations, and what status did women hold in society during the century in which the « rights of man » were declared? This course examines texts by women and/or concerning women and gender composed during the age of Enlightenment in France, from the early 18th century to the days of the Revolution. Through study of several literary genres, artistic works, and modern film adaptations, students will become familiar with texts and history of 18th century France, while being encouraged to draw parallels and contrasts between our period of study and the 21st century. Enrollment limited to 18. (E)  {F}{L} WI Credits: 4
Mary Allen
Spring 2022

FRN 230tl 01  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 2022

 

FRN 250 01  Zooming 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 2022

 

FRN 251fi 01  Topics in French Media, Now and Then - French Islam and French Muslims 
Through a survey of the contemporary flashpoints in the debate surrounding the place of Islam in French society, this course maps out the field of politicians, activists, youth movements, imams, artists, musicians, and other cultural actors that have defined the discourse on the issue. With an emphasis on new media, students analyze a wide variety of documents including internet resources, journalistic articles and blogs, music videos, films, legal texts, political pamphlets, slam poetry, rap songs, as well as photo and video art. {F} {H} Credits: 4 
Mehammed A. Mack
Spring 2022

 

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

FRN 282md 01  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 2022

 

FRN 295 01  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 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 385 Advanced Studies in Language 
Topics Course. 

FRN 385bt 01  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
Spring 2022

 

FRN 392sc 01 Seminar: Topics in Culture -- Stereotypes in French Cinema

In this seminar, we look at films that make a deliberate and often caricatural use of stereotypes in order to make a statement, whether it is to provoke, examine, question, or simply illustrate some aspects of French culture or national consciousness. The stereotypes we consider include cinematic genres (comedies), as well as themes or topics (tradition versus modernity, ‘Frenchness’, racial and class differences). In doing so, we pay particular attention to the way these stereotypes are staged, what their modes of inquiry are, and what conversations, if any, they promote. Films by Renoir, Tati, Buñuel, Jeunet, Ozon, and Sciamma among others. Weekly or bi-weekly film viewings.  Readings in film criticism and relevant fields. In French. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required.

Permission Required/Registration by Waitlist. During Add/Drop, Waiver Required.

Crosslist(s): FMS

Martine Gantrel-Ford
Spring 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 2021–22, we welcome five students from Paris and four from Geneva.

Paris

  • 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)

Geneva

  • Iliana Bitzberger (Université de Genève)
  • Elsa Cailletaud (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

 

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.