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French and Francophone Studies Department Goals and Objectives

The Department of French and Francophone Studies provides students with the skills and opportunities to acquire extensive knowledge of the French language and French-speaking cultures. By emphasizing precision in language and cultural literacy, we prepare majors for possible graduate work in French, as well as for careers in fields ranging from law and business to education, translation, foreign affairs, and the arts.

The department encourages cross-cultural sensitivity and an appreciation for diverse perspectives. Many of our students are attracted to France as a major economic power with a fascinating history and worldwide cultural influence. They are aware of France's extraordinary achievements in literature, science, technology, painting, sculpture, cinema, architecture, medicine, aviation, fashion, oenology and the culinary arts. French is spoken in many parts of Europe, as well as in North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and the Indian Ocean. Our department strives to acquaint students with France's history, including its colonialist past, and with the various French-speaking countries and regions that are vibrant cultures in their own right. As these diverse populations increasingly interact with one another, today's French major must have a working familiarity with the many cultures that constitute the French-speaking world.We expect our students to reach a high level of proficiency in French and to develop skills that enable them not only to acquire knowledge, but also to analyze and interpret what they learn. To this end, the department stresses critical and interdisciplinary thought; self-reflection (through "cultural alienation"); the coherent presentation of ideas both orally and in writing; various approaches to literary and cultural analysis; and immediate experience of creative ideas and works of art, particularly through the study of literature, film, translation and stylistics.All courses are designed to introduce, develop, or refine elements of the goals outlined above, so that students can move logically through the curriculum. Linguistic fluency, knowledge of Francophone countries and regions, and interpretive skills are emphasized in different ways at different levels. 

100- and 200-level language courses develop basic vocabulary, grammar, and strategies for communicating orally and in writing.  They provide rudimentary knowledge of French-speaking cultures and regions: their geography, history, dialects, social practices, artistic production, and traditions. 

Upper-level courses train students to read longer texts, explore ideas orally and in writing, and become sensitive to different linguistic registers. These courses provide more in-depth knowledge and teach students how to explore a range of topics relating to the French-speaking world. Study abroad programs permit accelerated advancement.

Students acquire interpretive skills through our emphasis on textual analysis, which is the study of how a text generates meaning. The study of literature is especially important, because skills in textual analysis enhance the ability to analyze and interpret other forms of media and cultural expression. As students develop this ability, they learn to use various sources in order to explore different theoretical or methodological approaches to the study of literature and culture, drawing upon various disciplines, such as anthropology, art, history, women's studies, and cognitive science. 

Systematic emphasis on these skills begins with 212 and 213, in which students practice reading, interpreting, discussing ideas, giving oral reports, and writing expository essays. Students learn to recognize formal features of texts and articulate ways in which such features contribute to their responses. They also gain knowledge of the ways in which textual analysis engages cultural phenomena. Post-213 courses focus on a topic or theme, permitting students to hone their linguistic and interpretative skills while exploring in greater depth a particular aspect of French-speaking cultures. These courses prepare students for more advanced work by introducing diverse critical and methodological approaches. At the 300-level, students read and write texts of considerable length, discuss abstract ideas, and pursue research or ideas with relative independence.