About the French Major

Prof. Laure Katsaros teaching a class during homecoming

The objective of the major is to learn about another culture directly through its language and principally by way of its literature. Literature is here understood as a significant expression of a culture.

Emphasis in courses is upon examination of significant authors or problems rather than on chronological survey. We read texts closely from a modern critical perspective, but without isolating them from their cultural context. To give students a better idea of the development of French Literature throughout the centuries, we encourage majors to select courses from a wide range of historical periods, from the Middle Ages to the present.

Fluent and correct use of the language is essential to successful completion of the major. Most courses are taught in French. The Department also urges majors to spend a semester or a year studying in a French-speaking country.

The major in French provides effective preparation for graduate work, but it is not conceived as strictly pre-professional training.

Major Program. The Department of French aims at flexibility and responds to the plans and interests of the French major within a structure that affords diversity of experience in French literature and continuous training in the use of the language.

A major in French (both rite and Honors) will normally consist of a minimum of eight courses. Students may choose to take (a) eight courses in French literature and civilization; or (b) six courses in French literature and civilization and two related courses with departmental approval. In either case, a minimum of four courses must be taken from the French offerings in the Amherst College French Department. One of these four must be taken during the Senior year. French 410H does not count toward fulfilling this requirement.

All courses offered by the Department above French 103 may count for the major. The one rule of selection is that two of the eight courses submitted for the major must be chosen from offerings in French literature and culture before the nineteenth century. One of these must be a course that covers the Medieval period or the Renaissance, the other a course that examines the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. (French 311 may be counted toward the major as one of these two courses.) Up to four courses taken in a study abroad program may count toward the eight required courses for the major. Comprehensive examinations must be completed no later than the seventh week of the second semester of the senior year.

Honors Program

Candidates for Departmental Honors must write a thesis in addition to fulfilling the course requirements for the major described above. Students who wish to write a thesis should begin to develop a topic during their junior year, and must submit a detailed thesis proposal to the Department at the end of the first week of Fall semester classes. Subject to departmental approval of the thesis proposal, candidates for Departmental Honors will enroll in French 498 and 499 during their senior year. (French 498 and 499 will not be counted toward the eight-course requirement for the major.) Oral examinations on the thesis will be scheduled in late spring.

Study Abroad

A program of study approved by the Department for a junior year in France has the support of the Department as a significant means of enlarging the major's comprehension of French civilization and as the most effective method of developing mastery of the language. For a more detailed explanation of the ways in which courses taken in a study abroad program may be counted toward the course requirements for the French major, see Study Abroad .

Exchange Fellowships

Graduating Seniors are eligible for two Exchange Fellowships for study in France: one fellowship as Teaching Assistant in American Civilization and Language at the University of Dijon; the other as Exchange Fellow, Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris.

Course Numbering System.  French 101-208 are French Language and Composition courses.  French 101-207 are numbered by degree of difficulty.  French 207, 208 and 311 have identical prerequisites and may be taken in any order.  All courses numbered 320 and above, with the exception of those courses conducted in English, list French 207, 208, 311 or 312 as prerequisites.  Courses numbered 320 and above are advanced courses, but are not ranked by order of difficulty.  They are organized, instead, by period in the following manner:

310-319 - Medieval Literature and Culture
320-329 - Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Literature and Culture
330-339 - Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture
340-349 - Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture
350-359 - Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Literature and Culture
360-369 - Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Literature and Culture / Advanced Language Courses
470+       -  Advanced Sminars
498-499 - Senior Departmental Honors
490         - Special Topics

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