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    Oberlin College
  Feb 25, 2018
Course Catalog 2013-2014 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

French and Italian

Bruce Richards, Acting Chair, Emer Prof, Physics.
Eunjung Grace An, Associate Professor of French and Cinema Studies
Ivana Di Siena, Instructor of Italian
Preeamvada Leelah, Visiting Assistant Professor of French
E. Elizabeth Murphy, Associate Professor of French
Matthew Senior, Associate Professor of French
Ali Yedes, Associate Professor of French

The Department of French and Italian offers a major in French and Francophone studies supported by an extensive and distinctive curriculum. In addition to courses supporting the French major, the department offers courses in beginning and intermediate Italian language. We strongly encourage students to include in their major a semester or year of study abroad in a program suited to their interests and level.



Cultural ties between France and America go back to the origin of the American republic, when Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine borrowed and shared concepts with French revolutionaries to frame the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Today, French and Francophone literature, philosophy, art, and cinema continue to exert a powerful influence over students and intellectuals around the world. The legacy of French thought reaches back to Descartes, Rousseau, Bergson, Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir and continues into the present, where the concepts of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze,  and others are indispensable to theory in the human and social sciences and real-world struggles related to race, nation, gender, class, and the environment. Writers such as Assia Djebar, Tahar Ben Jalloun, and Maryse Condé, and cinéastes such as Jean-Luc Godard, Claire Denis, and Ousmane Sembène have given world literature and film new faces and voices, while Médecins sans frontières has defined the concept of humanitarian aid beyond national boundaries.

 In the image of this new, engaged, global community of Francophones, the French program offers students the opportunity to integrate classroom learning with study abroad in France, Senegal, and other countries, on-campus activities at La Maison Francophone and the Table Française, and opportunities to serve the broader community. The program is built on four integrated objectives: mastery of spoken and written French; acquisition of critical appreciation of literature written in French, and of French-speaking cinema; the study of culture through cultural analysis; awareness of the life-changing experiences entailed in the intellectual and personal challenges of learning a different way of being. We encourage majors to live in La Maison Francophone on campus, where they have the opportunity of immersion in the target language and culture in daily contact with native speakers. The French program intersects with other major programs on campus, allowing students to combine their interests in History, Art History, Comparative Literature, Cinema Studies, Middle-Eastern and North African Studies, Economics, Politics, and other subject areas with a major or minor in French. Departmental advisors are available for consultation in organizing the major program. All courses numbered 301 and higher offered by French department faculty and listed as FREN count toward the major, regardless of the language of instruction.



The Paul and Edith Cooper International Learning Center, located on the third floor of Peters Hall, is a state of the art facility designed for both class and individual use at all levels of language learning. Audio, video and computer materials are available for student use. A staff of experts help students develop their language skills and connect with French speakers around the world.  Laboratory practice is encouraged for all students who wish to improve their speaking and oral comprehension.



Students who have received a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in French Language or French Literature will be automatically awarded credit for one course toward graduation, but not toward the major.  They should enroll in French 301, the gateway course for the French major.



It is the department’s policy to advance students as fast as achievement warrants. Students who have taken the SAT II Exam in French should enroll in courses according to their score:

550-625            French 203 or 205, 206
626-800            French 301

Students with previous study of French who have not taken the SAT II exam should take the Oberlin French Placement Test administered by the department during orientation to determine their appropriate level.



French 101-102 (or 103), 205-206 (or 203), 301, other 300-level courses in French, followed by 400 level courses. French 301 is the prerequisite for other courses at the 300-level.  Two 300-level courses beyond 301 are the prerequisite for 400-level courses. Other prerequisites may be noted: see the course descriptions below.


The French major consists of at least nine full courses.

FREN 301 serves as a gateway course and is required of all majors.  At least three courses must be completed at the 400-level, one of which must be in residence, and two of which may be fulfilled by Honors (FREN 505).  Two 300-level courses beyond 301 are the prerequisite for 400-level courses.

Four courses may be counted from approved study abroad programs or an accredited college/university.

Five courses must be in residence.

An AP score of 4 or 5 will result in placement in FREN 301, but will not replace 301 or count as credit toward the major.  FREN 301 or the equivalent is the prerequisite for taking other courses at the 300 and 400 levels.


The French minor consists of at least five courses.  FREN 301 and at least one course at the 400-level are required.  Two 300-level courses beyond 301 are the prerequisite for 400-level courses.  At least one 400-level course must be in residence.  Courses at the 100 and 200 level are not counted toward the minor.  An AP score of 4 or 5 will result in placement in FREN 301, but will not replace 301 or count toward the minor.

Restrictions for the Major and Minor

Courses in which a student has earned a letter grade lower than a C- or P cannot be used to fulfill the requirements of the major.

Transfer of Credit

The department will accept up to 4 courses of approved transfer credit toward the nine courses of the major.  Five courses of the major must be taken in residence at the advanced level, i.e., French 301 and above, and at least one at the 400 level.  Up to two courses of approved transfer credit may be applied to the minor, but at least three courses must be taken in residence at the advanced level.


The Honors Program in French provides qualified majors with the opportunity to complete a special project during their senior year. An Honors Project entails independent study in French, in consultation with a faculty sponsor, completed over two semesters (FREN 501-502). Qualified students are invited to apply to the program during the second semester of their junior year. Admission is determined on the basis of faculty evaluation and approval of honors proposals and overall and major GPA. Further information on the Honors Program may be obtained from the departmental website. See also the statement on Honors in the “General Information” section of this catalog.

Related Disciplines

Students who major or minor in French are encouraged to discuss with their advisor courses in other departments which will broaden and deepen their studies of French language, literature, and culture.  Examples might include coursework in comparative literature, in medieval art history, modern European history, literary theory, and cinema studies.  Students who major in French often complete a major in a second field.  Examples include majors in fields as diverse as Art History, Biology, Comparative Literature, Creative Writing, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, History, Music (both within the College and Conservatory), Neuroscience, Philosophy, Politics, Hispanic Studies and Religion.  As students plan their major or minor in French, they should keep in mind the manner in which other disciplines can enrich their major coursework.  The International Studies Concentration provides an appropriate grounding in the social sciences for majors interested in international affairs.

La Maison Francophone

An important element in the department’s program is La Maison Francophone, a program house accommodating 35 students.  A Faculty-in-Residence is assisted by two French exchange students.  Regular programming includes French language dining at La Table Française at Stevenson Dining Hall, films, French language television, games, cooking classes and other workshops, discussions on topics relating to French and Francophone cultures, and various other cultural and social activities.

Study Abroad

The department expects all majors to study abroad at the appropriate time in their college career. The Office of the Dean of Studies has an approved list of programs and the faculty members of the department advise students in choosing a program that best suits student needs.

Oberlin’s own bilateral exchange with the Institut d’études politiques de Paris, “Sciences Po,” allows students majoring in History, Economics, Politics, and other subjects to study at an elite grande école in Paris. Study Away programs in Paris, Rennes, Aix, Marseille, and Dakar offer many possibilities for studying while engaging in community service. The Council on International Educational Exchanges (CIEE) Center for Critical Studies program in Paris is an attractive option for students interested in literature, cinema, and philosophy. The Center for University Programs Abroad (CUPA) in Paris allows students to enroll directly in the Université de Paris, taking classes in literature, the humanities, or sciences:  Oberlin Conservatory students are able to study with Conservatoire de Paris faculty through CUPA.  The American University Center of Provence (AUCP) in Aix and Marseille is attractive to those interested in cultural exchange between France and North Africa, including research trips to Morocco and study of the Arabic language. The School for International Training (SIT) in Madagascar allows students to pursue environmental studies in French.  (See a faculty member and student testimonials on the French department website for more information about these programs.)

Winter Term

The department sponsors a number of group and individual projects each year.  Projects may take place in the US or overseas; as an example, in WT 2011-2012 a group of students worked in a shelter for asylum seekers in Belgium. For information on possible Winter Term projects, consult the department website. (See also “Winter Term” in General Information section.)

First Year Seminars