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Some of our favorite courses

The Films of Cédric Klapisch
Cédric Klapisch, known for his social comedies such as L’Auberge espagnole, is one of France’s consistent mainstream filmmakers. In a light manner that reaches a broad audience in France, Klapisch presents stories that touch on points of contention and dissention that have preoccupied France and European politics and policies in the last 30 years. While largely comedic, the films probe deeper into universal issues, such as family, community, globalization, racism, religion, class and gender tolerance, and France’s place in Europe and in the world. This course examines all of Klapisch’s full-length films to date, as well as most of his shorts. Students also read various articles, film reviews, and publications and watch interviews and documentaries about Klapisch as they examine and discuss his views about community, an evolving notion of French identity, and contemporary France/Europe. Students write, film, and produce a short "Klapish-style" film of their own.

Franco-Asian Cultural Encounters
This course studies the cultural contacts between French and Asian writers, filmmakers, and artists who have chosen to write in French or to make films in France. Following an overview of French presence in Asia, students examine the sociohistorical context of Franco-Asian contact through literary, artistic, and cinematographic cultural productions. Among the works studied are novels, poetry, paintings, and calligraphy of François Cheng, Fabienne Verdier, Anna Moï, Kim Lefèvre, Amélie Nothomb, Dai Sijie, and Tran Anh Hung. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach that encourages students to delve into areas of research, including politics, literature, history, and the arts.

The Francophone World
A multidisciplinary study of former French colonies in North Africa, West Africa, the Pacific, the Caribbean, and Asia. We trace the cultural and historical experiences of peoples from around the world as we study current social, political, and economic situations in many countries through film, current news articles, radio, television, the Internet, and literary texts. Students research and develop an in-depth study of a particular country and share their discoveries in oral presentations and short compositions. We discuss topics such as francophone and national identity, emigration and immigration, the condition of women, environmental, political and economic problems, religions, and values.

A French Childhood
The fairy tales Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and stories of Babar and the Little Prince are all French. By immersing themselves in the magical and imaginative literary world of French children, students learn many new words and expressions, nursery rhymes, songs, and children’s games. They read fairy tales and listen to French musical masterpieces created for children—for example, Ravel’s Tales of Mother Goose and Debussy’s Children’s Corner. The class reads French poems for children, excerpts from the Countess de Ségur’s stories, and bandes dessinées, or comic strips. Students learn how childhood has changed for French children from reading 17th-century French fairy tales to 21st-century reinvention of centuries-old stories.

French for International Business
In this course, students study business vocabulary and practices in the French-speaking world, with development of linguistic skills focusing on marketing, trade, import-export, and banking. The class studies the role of the francophone world in the global economy as well as researches and discusses France’s relations with Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the European Union and the United States, focusing on current business and economic issues. Students will also create and develop their own company that is socially and environmentally responsible. This course provides useful skills for students planning a career in international affairs, business, marketing, banking, economy or government.

French Theatre of the Absurd
Students study and become familiar with French existential thought and the development of the French absurd theatre. Through readings by Camus, Sartre, Ionesco, Genet, and Becket, students analyze the development of the existential and absurd movements, understand the basics of absurd theatre, and throughout the semester write and produce their own absurd theatre, culminating in a final production staged for students in other French classes. The class places an emphasis on correct written and oral French expression, as well as on thematic and cultural/political/social issues that gave rise to the existentialist and absurd traditions in French literature.

The Gourmet Culture of France
For the French, food is a philosophy, a science, and above all a creative art. Food has always been at the heart of French culture and is reflected in numerous literary works, including those of Balzac, Proust, and Zola. The luminous paintings of Monet, Renoir, Manet, and Cézanne also record an appetite for life, food, and friendship. In this class, students examine the social, symbolic, and political-economic roles of food in French and francophone cultures. This course is a voyage of exploration into the history and art of food from the Middle Ages to the present, which also studies how the origins of cuisine are closely linked to the political and social events of specific periods in history. Students also examine how the geographical characteristics of an area contribute to the cuisine of each region, how France’s famous cuisine is being transformed through influences from other cultures, and how the French view of the environmental and health aspects of food, including genetically modified foods, is affecting trade relations. Through filmed interviews, students meet great chefs such as Michel Bras, Olivier Roellinger, and Pierre Gagnaire, who are inventing and reinventing the art of French cuisine. What would a course on French cuisine be without tasting French food? It simply would not be French, so the class also cooks together to appreciate the art of French cuisine.

Introduction to French Film
Through screenings and discussions of film classics by the inventors of French cinema, the Lumière brothers, to present-day directors, students are introduced to unforgettable French films and to a variety of film styles, such as New Wave, Le Cinéma du look, Poetic Realism, among others. Students become familiar with specific writers and directors who have made their mark on French and international cinema, as well as major French film stars. They explore themes, as well as film techniques, and they develop a vocabulary to write and talk about films and filmmaking. Students read and write film reviews and detailed scene analyses and film short "homage" pieces to various directors/films/ styles.

La Musique Populaire
In this class students become familiar with many of the stars of French pop music from the 1950s through the present day, learning about the lives and deeds of various singers who are held in great esteem by the French public. From Edith Piaf to a variety of modern singers, students listen to and analyze different styles of music found across the period, such as the romantic ballad, rock, jazz, rap, and hip-hop. Through primary and secondary resources, students will be introduced to classic hits and/or signature songs of the major figures in French pop music of the period under examination. Additionally, students will examine how contemporary cultural issues and questions are reflected in the songs. Through detailed analyses, students will build vocabulary and strengthen basic grammar skills. Students explore song lyrics for deeper understanding of vocabulary and grammar and examine theme, style tone, and various literary and narrative strategies at work in compositions. Moreover, students study social and political events that occurred during the years, using references in the songs as a starting point for looking closely at contemporary French society, politics, and events. Students also compare musical and lyrical trends in France with those of the United States and Great Britain during the same era. In-class and homework activities ask students to translate, sing, write their own lyrics, and produce their own CD mixes and music videos.

Nature and the Environment in the Francophone World
This course uses an interdisciplinary approach and incorporates personal experiences in nature, fiction and poetry, as well as non-fiction texts dealing with environmental issues. Students primarily explore the role of nature and the environment in modern poetry and fiction of French and francophone writers such as Francis Ponge, Simone Schwarz-Bath, Jean-Marie Le Clézio, Albert Camus, Colette and Michel Serres. The class examines the relationship between humans and nature, between wilderness and civilization. Another part of class work is nature writing and where students find places outdoors to observe, meditate and to write in personal journals. The final research paper is a study of nature in literature, film, visual arts, gardens or music, or an investigation of environmental issues in France or the francophone world.

Romance, Realism and Beyond
In this class, students develop an understanding of the French literary movements of romanticism and realism through the reading and discussion of French literary giants of the 19th and 20th centuries. Students analyze key elements in the poetry of Hugo and Baudelaire, the prose of Balzac, Flaubert, Maupassant and Zola, the descriptive modernism of Proust, and the rise of existentialism and the absurd. Students also examine the late-20th- and 21st-century development of reality TV and its place in the long chain of intertwining elements of romance and realism, fact and fiction.

Water in Francophone Cultures
This course examines the significance, importance, and role of water in the life and culture of our planet. From perspectives ranging from the artistic to the political, students examine water as a substance essential to life and to culture. Sources, streams, rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans, occupy a central place in the natural world and are frequently reflected in various art forms. The class studies water imagery and representation in literature, music, and art. Given that this course uses an interdisciplinary approach, readings include both fiction and nonfiction. The role of water is explored in the works of Malika Mokeddem, Maryse Condé, Giselle Pineau, Patrick Chamoiseau, Anna Moï, and Marguerite Duras, among others. This course examines the special relationships people from different cultures have to water for both spiritual and physical health. A significant part of the course is spent studying the myriad forms of water problems in Madagascar, Indonesia, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, China, Polynesia, Vietnam, Québec, Louisiana, and France.

Women Out of Place: Unconventional Women in French Literature and Film
Throughout the centuries of French literature and more recently in French film, authors have created women characters who cannot adhere to the conventions of their society and who have difficulty occupying the traditional places and roles assigned to and expected of them. In this course, we examine a number of women characters whose actions lead to dramatic and in some cases criminal actions that change their lives and those close to them. What dictates do these women learn or choose to follow? What role does their society and/or their education play in their decisions? What other influences affect these women? Who helps or hurts them? What do they learn from their actions? What do we learn? We also take a look at studies on hysteria, on women’s place and role in society, and at various political and social movements. Texts and films may include: La Princesse de Clèves, Lettres d’une Péruvienne, Manon Lescaut, Madame Bovary, Thérèse Desquereux, La Vagabonde, L’Amant, Les Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée, Une Affaire de femmes, La Religieuse, Inch’Allah Dimanche, La Double Vie de Véronique, among others.