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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. Based on an interdisciplinary approach, course work in 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.

The study of foreign languages and cultures lies at the heart of a liberal education, for it opens the mind to a fuller understanding of the world. As such, the Department of French Studies carries out its mission across departmental, 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 her junior year abroad.


New book from Professor Eglal Doss-Quinby

We are delighted to note the long-awaited release of Eglal Doss-Quinby's latest book: a critical edition of the music and texts of one of the richest collections of 13th-century French polyphony, Motets from the Chansonnier de Noailles (A-R Editions, 2017).

Professor Emeritus David Ball Receives Palmes Académiques

Once again we have reason to be brimming with pride for Professor Emeritus Ball, who received the Palmes Académiques from the French consul on 6 September. Félicitations, David!

Congratulations to Our 2016-17 Prize Winners!

Césaire Prize: Divya Schlesinger '18
Voltaire Prize: Tess Abbott '20, Khulood Fahim '19, Melanie Nguyen '19

French Table: Mondays, noon-1:00 pm, Duckett

The French table meets for lunch and French conversation every Monday that school is in session during the Fall and Spring semesters, rotating every other week between Duckett A and Duckett B.


  • 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, Ann Leone, Mehammed Mack, Janie Vanpée and Hélène Visentin.


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

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

In consultation with her major adviser, a student may count toward the major four four-credit courses in appropriate departments other than French studies; at least two of these four courses must be taught in French.

All students are encouraged to fulfill requirement #3. It will be in effect beginning with the class of 2020.

No more than one course counting toward the major may be taken for the grade of S/U. Students considering graduate school in the humanities are encouraged to take CLT 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 Hélène Visentin.

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.
  • Students enrolled in FRN 385: Global French, the Language of Business and International Trade take the exam leading to the Diplôme de français professionnel granted by the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris-Ile-de-France.


Martine Gantrel (Fall), Eglal Doss-Quinby (Spring)

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 101 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 18 per section. Credits: 5
Ann Leone, Christiane Métral, Laura Jensen
Fall 2017

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. Prerequisite: 101. {F} Credits: 5
Laura Jensen, Christiane Métral, Eglal Doss-Quinby
Spring 2018

FRN 120 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 per section. {F} Credits: 4
Martine Gantrel, Laura Jensen
Fall 2017

FRN 220 High Intermediate French
Review of communicative skills through writing and class discussion. Materials include a movie, a comic book, a play and a novel. 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 Métral, Laura Jensen (Fall 2017); Jonathan Gosnell, Hélène Visentin (Spring 2018)
Fall 2017, Spring 2018

FRN 235 Speaking (Like the) French: Conversing, Discussing, Debating, Arguing
A total immersion course in French oral expression using authentic cultural materials: French films and televised versions of round-table discussions, formal interviews, intellectual exchanges and documentary reporting. Students learn how the French converse, argue, persuade, disagree and agree with one another. Interactive multimedia exercises, role playing, debating, presenting formal exposés and improving pronunciation. Prerequisite: 230 or permission of the instructor. Registration: required attendance at meeting in Fall 2017: date and location of meeting TBA. Admission by permission only. {F} Credits: 4
Christiane Métral
Interterm 2018

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. Prepares students for the Diplôme de français professionnel (Affaires B2) granted by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry and administered at Smith College. 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 2018

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.

“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? {F} {L} Credits: 4
Mehammed Mack
Spring 2018

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 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
Fall 2017

Dream Places and Nightmare Spaces: French Literary Landscapes
Through texts by authors from Louis XIV to Colette, we discuss questions about literary uses of landscape: Why do we flee or search for a landscape? What makes us cherish or fear a particular place? What do landscapes tell us that the narrator or characters cannot or will not tell? Other authors may include Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Chateaubriand, Maupassant, Apollinaire, Robbe-Grillet and James Sacré. {F} {L} Credits: 4
Ann Leone
Fall 2017

Paris, a Multilayered City
An exploration of the cultural and urban development of Paris across time and in space with an emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. We use an interactive digital platform to reconstruct the spaces, both real and imaginary, featured in novels, poetry, short stories, popular songs, visual documents and maps that have portrayed the city throughout its history. Works by Corneille, Hugo, Maupassant, Baudelaire, Apollinaire, Modiano, Vargas, Gavalda. {F} {L} Credits: 4
Hélène Visentin
Spring 2018

FRN 250 Skyping With the French: Cross-Cultural Connections
Using webcam and videoconferencing 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
Mehammed Mack
Spring 2018

FRN 251 The French Media, Now and Then
Topics course.

A broad overview of the different media and their histories in the French and Francophone world as well as an overview of French social, economic, political and cultural issues. Students acquire essential tools for media analysis: identifying political orientation, detecting bias, tracking controversies over time, putting quotes in context, and identifying missing voices in the narrative. Students can expect to read the leading newspapers every week and grapple with events as they happen. Prerequisite: FRN 230 or permission of the instructor.

The French Press Online
A study of contemporary French social, economic, political and cultural issues through daily readings of French magazines and newspapers online such as Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération, Le Nouvel Observateur. {F} {S} Credits: 4
Jonathan Gosnell
Fall 2017

FRN 252 French Cinema
Topics course.

Paris on Screen
The City of Light is often portrayed by filmmakers as the quintessential romantic setting. Starting with the French New Wave, this course examines films that look at Paris 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, Carax, Denis, Assayas, and Klapisch. Readings in film criticism. Papers and weekly screenings required. Course taught in French. Prerequisite: FRN 230, or permission or the instructor. {F} Credits: 4
Martine Gantrel
Spring 2018

FRN 265 Les Années Noires: Living through the Occupation, 1939-45
What was it like to live in Paris under the German occupation? What were the moral dilemmas and the political risks that Parisians faced as they struggled to survive? And how are we, today, to judge this historical period and those who lived through it? Students experience this difficult period through a global simulation in which each creates a character with a specific identity and past—a secret collaborator, a Jewish immigrant, a resistance fighter, a closeted homosexual, an avant-garde artist, a reporter, the widow of a soldier who fought under Maréchal Pétain in WWI—and representing the diversity of the Parisian population at the time. Each student writes her character’s “memoirs” reacting to historical as well as personal events from her unique perspective. Readings range from historical documents, speeches, and testimonials to drama, fiction. Weekly films. In French. Prerequisite: FRN 230. Enrollment limited to 16.  WI {F} {H} {L} Credits: 4
Janie Vanpée
Fall 2017

FRN 272 J’accuse! French Intellectuals as Activists
Why can some writers be called intellectuals? What is an intellectual? Why are French intellectuals unique? This course studies the emergence of political activism and the figure of the French “intellectual engagé” through readings from key social and historical moments and from a variety of genres. We trace how public debates on highly controversial topics such as intolerance, fanaticism, the death penalty, feminism, racism and the role of media have influenced intellectuals to become committed to transforming French politics and society. Texts include writings by Molière, Voltaire, Hugo, Zola, Sartre, Beauvoir, Halimi, Bourdieu and others. Prerequisite: FRN 230, or permission of the instructor. {F} {H} {L} Credits: 4
Hélène Visentin
Spring 2018

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

What’s Right? What’s Wrong? 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, and how major writers of the 19th and 20th centuries have used moral conflicts in their works to embody and confront what they saw as the most pressing social, political, or personal issues of their times. A novel (Les Misérables), an autofiction (L’Immoraliste), a theater play (Les Justes), and a film script (Hiroshima mon amour) provide us with four venues for examining and debating which values are at stake, what questions they bring up and what answers, if any, they provide. Readings by Hugo, Gide, Camus and Duras. Prerequisite: one course above 230. {F} {L} Credits: 4
Martine Gantrel
Fall 2017

FRN 295 French Translation in Practice
Practicum in French; must be taken concurrently with CLT 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 beyond 230 or permission of the instructor. This 2-credit course does not count as preparation for the Smith Programs Abroad in Paris and Geneva. {F} {L} Credits: 2
Carolyn Shread
Spring 2018

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.

Social Networking in Early Modern France–A Digital Humanities Approach
This course examines the social practices, spaces and networks that defined 17th- and 18th-century France, politically and culturally, from the height of the Ancien Régime up to the French Revolution. Students are also exposed to digital humanities methods and theories, combining the study and praxis of these approaches. As a jointly-taught, cross-campus course, students at Smith and Wellesley share a common syllabus and engage in parallel assignments. Through this endeavor we aim to foster digital collaboration among students in ways that lead them to reflect on how their use of digital methods and "virtual" teamwork change the ways in which they produce, share and disseminate knowledge. {F} {L} Credits: 4
Hélène Visentin
Fall 2017

FRN 363 Crossing the Divide: Love and the Exploration of Social Difference in Nineteenth-Century French Fiction
The course examines literary works where love is used as a narrative and thematic device to explore the meaning and relevance of social difference. Themes to be considered include the institution of marriage; exoticism as escapism; illness and death. Novels by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Stendhal, George Sand, Lamartine, and Alexandre Dumas, fils. Readings in relevant historical and cultural topics. {F} {L} Credits: 4
Martine Gantrel
Spring 2018

FRN 380 Topics in French Cultural Studies
Topics course.

Immigration and Sexuality
This course explains how gender and sexuality have been politicized in immigration debates in France, from the 1920s to the present. Students examine both cultural productions and social science texts: memoirs, psychoanalytical literature, activist statements, sociological studies, feature films, fashion, performance art, blogs, and news reports. France has historically been the leading European host country for immigrants, a multiplicity of origins reflected in its current demographic make-up. Topics include: the hyper-sexualization of black and brown bodies, France as a Mediterranean culture, immigrant loneliness in Europe, intermarriage and demographic change, the veil and niqab, as well as sexual nationalism and homo-nationalism. {F} Credits: 4
Mehammed Mack
Fall 2017

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

CLT 253 Literary Ecology
Literary ecology focuses on bio-social themes in literature—how human beings construct their relationship to their environment through literature and landscape art. We read works by “nature writers,” from the Romantic poets to early ecologists like John Muir and John Burroughs, and by contemporary writers such as John McPhee and Annie Dillard. We also analyze issues of contemporary eco-criticism and consider an expansion of the current range of canonical texts to include a broader diversity of viewpoints. Credits: 4
Ann Leone
Spring 2018

330 Capstone Seminar in Translation Studies
Same as CLT 330. The capstone seminar brings together a cohort of concentrators to discuss the final translation project that each student undertakes with the guidance of their adviser in the concentration and to situate the project within the framework of larger questions that the work of translation elicits. The seminar readings focus on renowned practitioners’ reflections on the difficulties and complexities of translating, the obstacles, discoveries and solutions that the translator encounters. We read a series of essays that engage with the conflicting interpretations and nuances of translations in 14 languages of Ferdinand Oyono’s iconic 1956 African novel, Une vie de boy. We compare how these translations transform the original novel and question the concept of original text as it interacts with the culture and the language into which it is translated. Students are responsible for presenting essays that focus on the particular challenges of translation that they have encountered in their individual project. Open to students in the Concentration in Translation Studies and students in Comparative Literature. Enrollment limit of 12 students. Prerequisite: CLT 150. {L} Credits: 4
Janie Vanpée
Spring 2018

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


Featured Event

Global Salon: A conversation with Lola Lafon

  • Lewis Global Studies Center, noon
  • Lafon, an acclaimed and best selling French novelist, has a deep attachment to Smith College, and its archives. She drew inspiration from them for her just released novel, Mercy, Mary, Patty (Actes Sud, 2017), which connects the stories of three women separated in time but united by radical convictions: Mercy Short, Mary Jamison and Patricia Hearst.



Mary Ellen Birkett
Professor Emerita of French Studies

Denise Rochat
Professor Emerita of French Studies

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

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

Lawrence Joseph
Professor Emeritus of French Language & Literature

Marie-José Delage
Professor Emerita of French Language & Literature

Josephine Ott
Professor Emerita of French Language & Literature

Students who wish to live in a Francophone community can apply to live in one of 12 spaces reserved on the second floor of Cutter House. With the support of the French department, this community sponsors a rich cultural program throughout the year, including a weekly French table, thematic teas, film screenings, lectures, field trips and excursions to Montréal or Québec.

If you are interested in living in the Francophone Residential Community in Cutter House, you will need to fill out an application. Further information about the application and how to access it can be found on the Residence Life website.

Applicants are selected based upon their responses to the application. Please email the Office of Residence Life if you have specific questions, or call 413-585-4940.

A faculty liaison works closely with the Francophone residents and the Department of French Studies, and an exchange student coordinates the cultural events.

We welcome this year's exchange students:

  • Diane Chateau-Alaberdina—from the Université Paris 4-Sorbonne (Diploma in American Studies)
  • Ilhem Ahmin—from the Institut d'etudes politiques (Diploma in American Studies)
  • Mégane Michaud—from the Université de Genève (Global Studies Fellow)
  • Lygia Pavitt—from the Université de Genève (Global Studies Fellow)
  • David Munoz Tord—from the Université de Genève (Global Studies Fellow)

Smith's long-established study abroad programs in Geneva and Paris attract about 30 students each year. Students live in university housing or with French-speaking families, attend classes with their French and European peers, and come back with near-native language skills and a real understanding of the culture. Majors find that this experience opens doors to careers in international relations, business, law, art and teaching. Majors in French studies who spend the year in Paris or Geneva will normally meet certain requirements for the major during that year.

Smith in Paris

Adviser: Martine Gantrel
Faculty Director: 
2017-18: Rob Dorit, Professor, Biological Sciences

French-speaking students live abroad for a full year in a French home. Students study at the Paris universities with Smith program courses offered by French professors, volunteering, interning and enjoying excursions and cultural activities in a select group of 25 students. Students are advised by a Smith faculty director and a Parisian associate director at the beautiful Reid Hall Smith Center in Montparnasse. Learn more on the Study Abroad website.


Students going on Smith programs abroad to Paris must meet the following requirements:

  • GPA of 3.0
  • Two years or the equivalent of college-level French, normally four four-credit courses, including one course at the 250 level or above in the spring semester of the year before study in Paris.
  • Students who enter Smith at the 230 level or above are required to take at least three semesters of French prior to study in Paris, including one course at the 250 level or above in the spring semester of the year before study in Paris.
  • Students beginning French with FRN 101 and 102 must take three four-credit French courses in their sophomore year, including one at the 250 level or higher in the semester prior to study in Paris.

Les Sciences à Paris

Les Sciences à Paris is a yearlong program designed explicitly to support students in the sciences, mathematics and engineering. Coursework, research opportunities and tutoring are combined into a customized curriculum enabling science students to experience the rich scientific traditions of France, acquire competence in French and experience the practice of science in an international context. Students with at least one year of college-level French or the equivalent are invited to apply.

Smith in Geneva

Adviser: Jonathan Gosnell

Resident Director:
2014-present: Geneviève Piron

Track A. International Internship Program
Intern at an international organization at least three days per week; study French; take the core Humanitarianism and Practicum courses at the Smith Center; enroll in at least one Graduate Institute or University of Geneva course. Available fall or spring; can be combined with Track B or C for a year-long option. Applicants are expected to have at least one semester of college-level French or the equivalent.

Track B. University Studies Program
Enroll in four to five Smith Center and university courses each semester in either French or English, including a French language course. Available for the academic year for students with two years of college-level French or equivalent; and spring for students with at least one year of French or equivalent.

Track C. International Relations Program
Enroll in four Smith Center and Graduate Institute courses each semester, including French language. Take a core Humanitarianism course at the Smith Center along with other International Studies/Development courses at the Graduate Institute. Available fall or spring. Available for students with at least one semester of college-level French. Can be combined with Tracks A or B for a year-long option.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can I study in Paris or Geneva if I'm not a French major?
Yes, most definitively! Smith's JYA programs accomodate a wide range of majors.

Can I apply if I began French at Smith with FRN 101 and FRN 102?
Yes, but you will need to take three 4-credit French courses in your sophomore year.

How many French courses do I need if I studied French before I came to Smith?
Students going on the Smith College Study Abroad Program in Paris must have two years or the equivalent of college-level French, normally four four-credit courses, including one course at the 250 level or above in the spring semester of the year before study in Paris. Students who enter Smith at the FRN 230 level or above are required to take at least three semesters of French prior to study in Paris, including one course at the 250 level or above in the spring semester of the year before study in Paris.

Students interested in either of the academic options offered on the Smith College Junior Year Abroad in Geneva are encouraged to begin study of French and to pursue it prior to departure. Students on any track (A, B, and C) will study French language, or particular subjects of interest in French, while in Switzerland.

Are there courses recommended for preparation for study abroad on Smith's Paris or Geneva programs?
All courses at the 230 level and above will prepare you for study abroad in Paris and Geneva.

Where can I learn more about study abroad?
For more information, consult the French Studies study abroad advisers.

Prizes & Fellowships

Director of Honors: Martine Gantrel (Fall), Eglal Doss-Quinby (Spring)
Director of Graduate Studies: Ann Leone
Coordinator of Prizes: Eglal Doss-Quinby

Prizes and fellowships are available to students studying French at Smith and on Junior Year Abroad (JYA) programs. Students interested in information about these prizes should consult the director of honors, or in the case of prizes and fellowships awarded to students on the JYA programs in Paris or Geneva, the current director of that program. Students interested in the Killam fellowship to Canadian universities should consult the director of graduate studies.

Voltaire Prize

Awarded to a first-year student or a sophomore at Smith College for an essay or other project in French that shows originality and engagement with her subject. Submissions for prizes must be presented in person to Jennifer Blackburn in the French Studies office, Wright 102, no later than the last day of the spring semester examination period. Entries submitted should be the version of the work bearing the professor’s comments and final grade, unless the paper has not yet been returned to the student. Submissions will be judged anonymously. Note: FRN 220 papers, no matter one’s class year, can only be submitted for the Colette Prize.

Césaire Prize

Awarded for excellence in an essay or other project in French by a junior or a senior on campus. Submissions for prizes must be presented in person to Jennifer Blackburn in the French Studies office, Wright 102, no later than the last day of the spring semester examination period. Entries submitted should be the version of the work bearing the professor’s comments and final grade, unless the paper has not yet been returned to the student. Submissions will be judged anonymously. Note: FRN 220 papers, no matter one’s class year, can only be submitted for the Colette Prize.

Colette Prize

Awarded to a student at Smith College for an essay turned in as part of FRN 220, that shows originality and engagement with her subject. Submissions for prizes must be presented in person to Jennifer Blackburn in the Department of French Studies office (Wright 102), no later than the last day of the spring semester examination period. Entries submitted should be the version of the work bearing the professor’s comments and final grade, unless the paper has not yet been returned to the student. Submissions will be judged anonymously. 

Josephine Ott Prize

Awarded to a Smith junior in Paris or Geneva for her commitment to the French language and European civilization. (In one out of seven years the prize is given to a student studying on the Geneva program.)

Ruth Leipziger Prize

Awarded to one or more students studying on the JYA program in Paris.

Rousseau Prize

Awarded annually to a member of the junior or senior class studying with the Smith College program in Geneva.

Blumberg Fellowship

Funds up to five students on the Smith College JYA programs who design a project to be carried out during the summer after their academic year on the JYA program. The fellowship provides the opportunity for students to travel widely in the country of their program.

Baer Fund

Sponsors a student wishing to undertake a full-time internship during the summer after her studies on the JYA program in Geneva.

Julia Mayrant Rees Simonds '95 France Internship Fund

Sponsors a student wishing to undertake an internship during the summer after her studies on the JYA program in Paris, or in Geneva, if there should be no candidates from the Paris program.

Killam Fellowship

Enables a Smith student to study in a Canadian university either for a year or for a semester. For more information,see the Fellowships website.

Alumnae 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. Some go to France or Geneva to continue studies or to work.

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.

“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

“I am an assistant professor of medieval French and Occitan literature at Columbia. I chose Smith  because of its remarkable French department. I was drawn to the breadth of courses, the pedagogical excellence of the faculty and the study abroad opportunities.”
Eliza Zingesser ’05, Assistant Professor, Department of French and Romance Philology, Columbia University


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 faculty.