Objectives and Outcomes

Objectives and Outcomes

The Department of French and French Studies expects its majors to:

  • acquire advanced skills in comprehending written and spoken French, and in speaking and writing the language through clear analysis and cogent argumentation (four skills)
  • demonstrate their familiarity with the cultural traditions of France and the Francophone world (cultural traditions)
  • (for French majors) demonstrate a sound knowledge of at least three periods of French literature; undertake literary analysis and understand notions of literary theory (literature and literary analysis)
  • (for French Studies majors) demonstrate a sound knowledge of at least three from: French language, French history, French cinema, the sociopolitical reality of modern France, and the sociocultural and literary traditions of other French-speaking parts of the world (France and the Francophone World)
  • acquire topical expertise through a chosen research project (topical expertise).

Achieving the objectives

Course requirements
  • Four skills: Majors proceed from French 300/Advanced French (or an equivalent level of high-school French) to a course in advanced language: French 311/Composition, 312/Conversation, or 313/Contemporary Language and Usage. These courses facilitate further development of skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension, and they treat various aspects of French and Francophone culture.
  • Cultural traditions: All majors take French 314/Introduction to Literature of the French-Speaking World. In all advanced literature courses, attention is paid to the cultural context of the texts. French Studies majors learn about French and Francophone culture in their related courses outside the Department as well (four required courses chosen from a list in Anthropology, Art History, History, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, and Theatre).
  • Literature and literary analysis: All French majors must take French 360/Explication de Textes, which presents a technique for close, analytical reading of literary texts. They then choose three courses from among French 401/Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 403/The 17th Century, 405/The 18th Century, 407/The 19th Century, and 409/Contemporary Literature. These classes deepen knowledge of French literary traditions.
  • France and the Francophone World: All French Studies majors proceed after French 314 to a series of three courses chosen from among French 411/Culture Through History (broad chronological approach), 413/Modern France through Films and Other Texts, 415/History of French Cinema, 417/Topics in Francophone Studies (emphasis may vary semester-to-semester), and 419/Introduction to French Linguistics. These classes, along with those outside the department, deepen students’ knowledge about the language, history, culture, and society of France and the Francophone world.
  • Topical expertise: All majors choose a topic and write a 30-page thesis in their capstone seminar, French 410 or 420, during their final semester. The seminar also serves to review and further explore the material from other advanced courses. The thesis becomes the topic of the oral comprehensive, as described below.
  • Exams given in each French courses assess the degree to which students have acquired the knowledge and skills required of our majors. We also shared these assessment measures with outside reviewers when they evaluated our department in order to compare our testing measures with those of other strong institutions. Our review was outstanding.
Departmental expectations outside of courses
  • Requirement to live and study in a French-speaking country
  • Encouragement to live in the French House for a semester
  • Participation in extracurricular activities sponsored by the department: French Table, French House activities, Films and theatre events
Comprehensive Exams

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon of the last full week of classes, majors write three-hour exams on three areas as described above. They must complete ten identifications of major figures, phrases, quotes, concepts, texts, or terms, and they must write long essays to answer broad questions that require analysis and synthesis of material learned throughout the program. If they pass the written exams, they must then defend their thesis in an oral comprehensive exam. In front of the five members of the department, they give a twenty-minute talk in French to explain their topic and conclusions, and then they answer questions for about half an hour. All aspects of these exams test our majors’ critical thinking skills and their ability to make connections within our disciplinary area and and, ultimately, across disciplines.

Achievement of the objectives

  • Four skills: Seniors must understand the written questions on the exams and write out cogent arguments in clear French, usually totaling about 20 pages for the three exams. Orally, they must be able to explain their topic from French 410/420 in French and to respond analytically to their professors’ questions in order to pass the oral component, generally lasting about 45 minutes.
  • Cultural traditions: On the written comprehensives, seniors write about cultural context in their answers to the identifications and essays. In the oral, questions often demand that they address the context of a sociohistorical phenomenon or of a work of literature or art, so they are expected to apply knowledge from all of their courses to prove their grasp on culture.
  • Literature and literary analysis: French majors write on three major periods of French literature and are also expected to know something about the periods surrounding the period being tested. The questions demand analysis of texts.
  • France and the Francophone World: French Studies majors write on three areas, chosen from among a chronological approach to French history, contemporary France, the history of French cinema, Francophone culture and literature, and French linguistics. Their answers to the identifications and essays must show a synthesis of knowledge gleaned from all of their courses, intra- and interdepartmental.
  • Topical expertise: The oral comprehensive exam, based on in-depth research and writing, tests the majors’ topical expertise and oral proficiency. Understanding and answering professors’ questions proves the degree to which they have mastered listening comprehension and oral expression in French.

Assessment of outcomes

  • Procedures of comprehensive exams reviewed in May 2005 and revised; French and French Studies majors now have same expectations for Topical Expertise and the oral examination
  • Content and procedures of comprehensive exams reviewed after each testing cycle; evaluation done to determine how well students understood the task and how they responded
  • Representative list of jobs that former French and French Studies majors have held or now hold, to be compiled by May 2007
  • High acceptance rate into graduate schools; statistics on MAs and PhDs of French graduates, to be compiled in the next few years.