French Curriculum

Students may complete an Area of Concentration in French, with a literary focus, or in French Studies, which has a cultural focus. In both cases, students are required to have a high level of proficiency in spoken and written French, as demonstrated by the completion of Advanced French or the equivalent, and strongly satisfactory evaluations in courses conducted in French. Students are strongly encouraged to arrange an Independent Study Project or off-campus semester in a French-speaking country or region.

For a concentration in French Literature, students: 1) need to demonstrate, by means of courses and tutorials, familiarity with literature of different genres (long and short prose fiction, poetry, and drama) and historic periods (pre-1700; 1700-1899; 1900-present), and at least one course or tutorial in Francophone literature; 2) must complete one course or tutorial in literary theory; 3) are encouraged to undertake relevant course work in related fields, such as history, art history, music, philosophy, or political science. Students are expected to complete at least 8-10 semester-long courses or tutorials for the AOC, with as much coursework as possible in French. Only courses beyond the level of Advanced French count toward the AOC.

For a concentration in French Studies, students need to coordinate with faculty in French and in other relevant disciplines in the Humanities and/or Social Sciences to develop a course of study that combines work in French literature with work in fields such as French international studies, music, history, art history, politics, or philosophy. Students must complete at least 2 semester-length courses or tutorials in each of three different disciplines. As above students are expected to complete at least 8-10 semester-long courses or tutorials for the AOC, with as much coursework as possible in French. Only courses beyond the level of Advanced French count toward the AOC.

For detailed requirements, check out our General Catalog and the French Academic Learning Compact.

Here’s a list of recent course offerings in French:
The list below is just a sample of courses in French. For a complete list of courses, click here.

Beginning French I
This first-semester course is designed for students with little or no background in French. Using the multimedia French in Action program, this immersion course focuses on the use of grammatically and idiomatically correct French. Required work for the course includes weekly quizzes, frequent dialogues, and a comprehensive final exam. Attendance, active participation, and individual study in the Language Lab are required. Three 50-minute classes per week plus one 90-minute lab session. Class is conducted entirely in French. Enrollment limited to 20.

Beginning French II
This continuing course is designed for students who have successfully completed Beginning French I at New College. Using the multimedia French in Action program, this immersion course focuses on the use of grammatically and idiomatically correct French. Required work for the course includes weekly quizzes, frequent dialogues, and a comprehensive final exam. Attendance, active participation, and individual study in the Language Lab are required. Three 50-minute classes per week plus one 90-minute lab session. Class is conducted entirely in French. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Beginning French I.

Intermediate French I
For students continuing from Beginning French II or who studied French for 2-3 years in high school. This class focuses on the use of grammatical and idiomatically correct French in conversation and written work. The grammar lessons are supplemented with a selection of cultural texts. Weekly assignments include compositions, oral exercises and presentations, and tests covering grammar and vocabulary. There is a final exam held during exam week. Attendance and active participation are required. The class is conducted entirely in French. Class meets for three 50-minute sessions plus one 90-minute lab per week. Prerequisite: Completion of Beginning French II or permission of instructor based on placement test results. Enrollment may be limited.

Intermediate French II
A continuation of Intermediate French I. This course builds on the grammar and vocabulary acquired in previous semesters and develops students' ability to think and express themselves in French. There is an increased emphasis on the interpretations of literary and cultural texts. There are regular tests and in-class exercises, as well as a comprehensive final exam. Compositions are longer and more analytical than in the previous semester. Class meets for three 50-minute sessions, plus one 90-minute lab per week. Attendance and active participation are required. Prerequisite: Intermediate French I.

Advanced French
This course in composition and conversation is intended for students with two years of college French or the equivalent. A comprehensive grammar review plus reading and writing assignments of increasing difficulty will prepare students to study French literature and culture in the original. Readings include a wide variety of French and Francophone literary works as well as a selection of nonfiction texts. Required work for the course includes daily grammar exercises plus intensive individual grammar review, frequent writing assignments, self-correction of all written work, and a comprehensive midterm and final exam. Attendance and active participation are required. Class is conducted entirely in French. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Intermediate French II or permission of instructor. Enrollment limited to 20.

L’Amour interdit
Adultery, incest, homosexuality—what constitutes forbidden love, and how have notions of transgression evolved in the past millennium? Focusing on the theme of l’amour interdit, this course examines works of prose, drama, and film from the Middle Ages through the end of the twentieth century. Work includes: frequent writing exercises, papers, rotating leadership of class discussions. This literature survey is conducted entirely in French. Prerequisite: satisfactory completion of Advanced French.

‘Black Orpheus’ at the turn of the 21st century: novels and short-stories from Francophone Africa
In 1948, Jean-Paul Sartre published his essay « Black Orpheus » [« L’Orphée noir « ], which appeared as the introduction to Senghor’s Anthologie de la Nouvelle Poésie Nègre et Malgache. The recent turn of the century provides us an opportunity to look back on Sartre’s historic essay as we consider how contemporary African authors are writing the continent’s present and future. In this course we will read novels and short-stories written in the past 20 years from across Francophone Africa—from Cameroon, Ivory Coast, the Congo, Guinea—works that are both political engaged and textually innovative. Our readings will allow us to consider representations of the colonial legacy and the post-colonial present, as well as the challenge of remembering the Rwandan genocide. We will read works by authors such as Calixthe Beyala, Emmanuel Dongala, Ahmadou Kourouma, Tierno Monénembo, Patrice Nganang, and Véronique Tadjo. All readings will be available in both French and English translation. This course is cross-listed under Gender Studies. The course is open to beginning and advanced students in literature, to students with an advanced level of French (Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor), and to those with no knowledge of French. The class will meet once a week as a whole, for discussion in English, and once in separate discussion sections for students working in French and English.

Contes et conteurs
A seminar in French literature, open to students who have completed Advanced French, or by permission of instructor. The course is designed to help students make the transition from the study of French language to the study of French literature in the original. All discussion will be in French. There will be several short papers, as well as in-class writing assignments and projects designed to broaden students’ active vocabulary. This literature survey is conducted entirely in French. Prerequisite: satisfactory completion of Advanced French.

Si la littérature se définit par l’écriture, comment est-ce que la littérature met en scène l’oralité?  Notre première introduction à la littérature passe à travers la langue parlée; bien avant que nous ne puissions lire, on nous raconte des histoires. Notre amour de la littérature est donc littéralement bercé par la voix humaine. Dans ce cours, nous étudierons comment les écrivains cherchent à s’approprier la voix et son pouvoir dans leurs écrits. Nous lirons un choix de textes français et francophones—des contes traditionnels aux récits de la fin du XXe siècle. Nous commencerons avec des fables, des contes de fée, et des extraits de l’Heptaméron de Marguerite de Navarre. Ensuite nous lirons des textes par des auteurs tels: Honoré de Balzac, Guy de Maupassant, Albert Camus, Michel Tremblay, Joseph Zobel, et Véronique Tadjo.

Double Stories: Historic Heuristic Fictions
Taking contemporary French, Francophone and English literature and film as its corpus, this advanced seminar explores the use of thematic and structural doubling—from parallels and repetition to hybrid genres and hybrid languages—in fictional representations of history. Work includes: rotating leadership of class discussions, papers, individual presentations on independent readings. Previous study of literature, film, or history is highly desirable. French and English sections offered. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French language literature survey or permission of instructor.

Eighteenth-Century French Literature
This course explores major literary works of eighteenth-century France in their historical, political, and intellectual context through substantial reading assignments from the works of Montesquieu, de Graffigny, Laclos, Prévost, Voltaire, Beaumarchais, and Diderot. Work includes: rotating leadership of class discussions, papers. French and English sections offered. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor

Francophone Literatures of the Americas: Giving Voice to Identity (Seminar in English and in French)
The French Crown may have lost Québec on the Plains of Abraham in 1759, but the French language has continued to flourish in the Americas through the 20th-century. Using the language of Voltaire and Derrida to express the New World realities of the Americas is not a self-evident task, however. This course will explore how contemporary authors have shaped the French language to speak to the lived experience of contemporary Québec and the Antilles (Haïti and the French départements of Martinique and Guadeloupe), and how they articulate their claim to a uniquely American identity. Our readings will include works by authors such as Aimé Césaire, Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, René Depestre, Anne Hébert, Dany Laferrière and Michel Tremblay, authors whose experimental work has shaped the contemporary francophone literary canon, as well as Edwige Danticat, a Haitian-American who writes in English. We will focus on prose fiction, but will also consider works of poetry, drama, and film. Our discussions will be informed by essays in post-colonial and gender theory. The course is open both to students with a strong knowledge of French and to students who have no familiarity with the language. Readings will be available in both French and English; the course will be run with both English and French discussion sections. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor. This course is cross-listed under Gender Studies.

The French Renaissance: Contextualizing Sixteenth Century Literature
The literary production of the sixteenth century was both rich and varied, ranging from the carnivalesque writing of Rabelais to the private contemplation of Montaigne. Our readings will include fiction (Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron), poetry (Ronsard, du Bellay, Scève, and Labé), and a selection of Montaigne's Essays. We will also look at how the Renaissance esthetic was expressed in art, music and architecture. To understand the socio-political context that gave rise to the French Renaissance, we will need to consider the broad debate between the Church and the Reformation, and the subsequent rise of Humanism. Our discussions will be informed by readings in both social history, such as the work of Natalie Zemon Davis, and literary criticism. This course puts a premium on participation: each participant will be responsible for preparing discussion questions and for making at least two (short) oral presentations over the course of the term. Written work will consist of either: 1) a series of four short papers; or 2) a short paper, an in-class exam, and a research paper (12-15 pgs). The course is taught with both French and English discussion sections. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor. The course is cross-listed under Gender Studies.

Literary Movements of Nineteenth-Century France/Ecoles littéraires du dix-neuvième siècle: a literature survey conducted in French and English
This course explores the development of and conversation between literary schools over the course of the 19th Century. How did Romanticism set itself off against Classicism and the Enlightenment? How did Realism incorporate an understanding of the romantic plot into its representations of the world? How did Naturalism express the rapid changes taking place in the City (Paris)? In what ways is the Decadent emphasis on the Senses a reaction to the Naturalist emphasis on Truth? Readings for this course will be primarily fiction (short stories and novels), although we will read poetry and essays as well. We will read works by authors such as Balzac, George Sand, Hugo, Lamartine, Desbordes-Valmore, Flaubert, Baudelaire, Zola, Maupassant, Huysmans, Rimbaud, Verlaine & Rachilde. A premium will be placed on class participation; each student will either give a 10-15 minute presentation or lead discussion at least once. The course is open to beginning and advanced students in literature, to students with an advanced level of French (by permission of the instructor) and to those with no knowledge of French. The class will meet once a week as a whole, for discussion in English, with separate meetings on Thursday or Friday for students working in French and English (time TBA). Readings will be available in both French and English. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a Frenchlanguage literature survey or permission of instructor. This course is cross-listed under Gender Studies.

Proust’s Remembrance Of Things Past
This course is devoted to the study of Marcel Proust's 1913-1927 masterpiece Remembrance of Things Past, an eight-volume work about time, memory, love, jealousy, social climbing, homosexuality, hypochondria, art, literature, music, good-night kisses, and a very special cookie. This seminar involves unusually extensive reading assignments. Previous study of literature is recommended. Work includes: rotating leadership of class discussions, papers, group presentations on the historical and cultural context of Proust’s novel. French and English sections offered. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor.

Le rire à travers les siècles
What’s so funny? Focusing on comedy, parody, satire, and farce, this survey of French literature examines works of prose, drama, and film from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century, paying particular attention to the works’ social and intellectual contexts. Work includes: frequent writing exercises, papers, rotating leadership of class discussions. This literature survey is conducted entirely in French. Prerequisite: satisfactory completion of Advanced French.

Seventeenth-Century French Theater
Fate. Passion. Murder. Politics. Gender wars. Impossible choices. Inspired silliness. Representative plays by Corneille, Molière, and Racine comprise the primary readings for this course. Films and secondary readings will help us explore the literary and historical context of these works. Work includes: rotating leadership of class discussions, scene readings, papers, final exam. French and English sections offered. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor.

The Twentieth-Century French Novel
Focusing on experimental fictions, this course covers the major literary movements of the twentieth century, including surrealism, existentialism, and the nouveau roman. We will study representative works by Proust, Gide, Breton, Sartre, Beauvoir, Robbe-Grillet, Duras, and Charef. Work includes: rotating leadership of class discussions, papers, group presentations on twentieth-century literary movements. French and English sections offered. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor.

Twentieth-Century French and Québécois Theater
In this course we will read and stage scenes from a selection of innovative plays that shaped the experience of theater in France and Québec. We will consider how the plays invoke and challenge literary and linguistic traditions, and how they participate in the political debate of their time. Our readings will include works such as: Alfred Jarry, Ubu (Ubu roi); Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (En attendant Godot); Jean Anouilh, Antigone; Jean Giraudoux, The Trojan War won’t take place (La Guerre de Troie n’aura pas lieu); Eugène Ionesco, Rhinoceros; Albert Camus, The Just (Les Justes); Jean Paul Sartre, No Exit (Huis-clos) or The Flies (Les Mouches); Jean Genet, The Maids (Les Bonnes); The Balcony (Le Balcon); Michel Tremblay, Les Belles Soeurs; Anne Hébert, The Cage (La Cage); Yasmina Reza, Art. Students will be evaluated on a series of short response papers, scene readings; and a final exam. French and English discussion sections offered. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor.

World War II France in Film and Fiction
This advanced interdisciplinary course on World War II France will examine the phony war, invasion and occupation, collaboration and resistance, deportation, liberation and the aftermath as well as the changing representations of W.W.II in works from the postwar period. Primary readings include works by Gracq, Saint- Exupéry, Dutourd, Sartre, Vercors, Chardonne, Delbo, Perec, and Duras; films include documentaries (The Eye of Vichy, Night and Fog) and fictional features (The Last Metro, Les Violons du bal) as well as historical and critical texts. Work includes: rotating leadership of class discussions, papers, individual presentations on independent readings. Previous study of literature, film, or history is highly desirable. French and English sections offered. Prerequisite for French section: satisfactory completion of a French-language literature survey or permission of instructor.

[Did you know?]


New College has a strong record of placing students in prestigious French Government Teaching Assistantships. Since 2007, 17 New College students have traveled to France for post-graduation work as part of this program.

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