Winter 2021 Course Descriptions

French Expanded Course Descriptions Winter 2021

FRE 115
Course Description:
This course will offer an introduction to medieval French literature in modern French translation. Our focus will be on themes of love and marriage, faith and desire, freedom and constraint in a variety of genres: conte, lai, vie de saint, miracle, and roman. Class discussions will center on practices of storytelling and performance and the ways in which those practices were used to elicit ethical, political, and spiritual reflection. The course has two principal goals: (1) to provide a broad understanding of medieval literature in its social and cultural contexts; and (2) to improve analytical skills and expository writing. Students will submit three expository essays on assigned topics. There will also be a final exam featuring essay questions.

FRE 161 : Introduction à la linguistique française
Eric Russell
MWF 10-10:50am VIA ZOOM

Course Description

This course is conceived of as the complement to FRE 109, which looks at phonetics and phonology (having taken this course is not required, though it is certainly beneficial). In FRE 161, we turn our attention to the ways meaning is made, manipulated, and interpreted within the forms (words and parts of words, expressions, etc.) and structures (sentences, utterances, etc.) of modern French. We will unpack the ways Francophones create their worlds and make sense of these worlds using language, also comparing this in many cases to the ways Anglophones and speakers of other languages (e.g. Spanish, Mandarin) do similar things.

During our time together, you will get an introduction to several linguistic concepts:

- Lexicon: the form of words

- Morphology: the structure of words

- Semantics: the system of meaning

- Syntax: the shape of clauses and sentences

For each area, which is constructed as a unit within the quarter, you will learn helpful terminology, engage with language data in different ways (comparison, fact finding, problem sets), and explore language questions (des problèmes langagiers). This is not a prescriptive course – the goal is not that you emerge with a perfect or flawless French (whatever that might mean). While you will continue to progress in written/oral fluency, you will come to better understand how French works as a coherent system.

By the end of the quarter, you will have understood:

- Basic principles of linguistic description and interpretation: in other words, what counts as a linguistic approach to language.

- Core linguistic terminology applicable to the four core areas of the course: how to talk about language with more precision and rigor.

- Key concepts pertaining to lexicography, morphology, semantics, and syntax: how to understand the “inner workings” of language

By the end of the quarter, you will be able to:

- Describe the vocabulary of French, including different forms and their relations

- Describe and illustrate how words take different shape for different uses and in different contexts

- Describe semantic regularities, drawing comparisons to similar data in English [and perhaps another language you speak]

- Provide a basic analysis of French clauses and sentences, using appropriate terminology and models.

FRE 212 + COM 210 (cross-listed)

Course Description:
According to philosopher Simon Critchley, “Jokes tear holes in our usual predictions about the empirical world. We might say that humor is produced by a disjunction between the way things are and the way they are represented in the joke, between expectation and actuality. Humor defeats our expectations by producing a novel actuality, by changing the situation in which we find ourselves.” This course will explore the relevance of Critchley’s insight for the study of medieval and early modern comedy, including a range of narrative and theatrical genres. We will focus our attention on how these texts use humor to tear holes in the world, begging questions about what is real, how reality has been constructed for us, and how it might change in response to our laughter. We will do our best not to forget that laughter is a pleasurable, bodily experience, one that is fundamentally at odds with philosophical explanation. That said, we will regularly supplement our literary readings with theoretical expositions on laughter and the body, including key works of critical theory, political anthropology, and feminist and queer studies. Of particular interest will be: (a) the problem of subalterns as the butt of jokes, and (b) the ways in which subaltern characters respond to being targeted. As we will find, the response often involves turning a joke on its head, tearing holes in reality, and imagining “a novel actuality” in which subordination is neither natural nor necessary nor justified.