Now second year is over I can reflect on my eclectic choice of modules. My mentality was choosing exciting and different things, so I completely disregarded more traditionally academic (read BORING) subjects such as ‘Women’s Life Writing’, ‘Sociolinguistics’ and anything Moliere.
I will guide you through the four French modules I chose this year, and whether ‘choosing because the title sounds exciting’ was the best idea to have…
Post-War French Theatre
Sesame Street is a lot cleverer than you’d think (“Waiting for Elmo”)
I chose this module because I used to love drama, and I think studying plays is a lot more interactive and interesting than just novels. I really enjoyed it and spent a lot of time doing background reading for my essay, which I usually scrimp on a bit, or do none at all. These genre of plays aimed to show the absurdity of the human condition. The plays do not have a typical structure, and quickly became popular in the 1950s. This can be unsettling on an audience – I, for one, have to always watch a play which has an interval break so I can get one of those ice creams with the spoon built in, otherwise there is NO POINT – but I found these plays fascinating. If you ever get a chance to see any of them – do! I always want to sound cultured and go to the theatre and rarely do, which is not the attitude you should have!
En Attendant Godot/Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett – 7/10
“Les Bonnes” (The Maids) by Jean Genet – 6/10
“La Lecon” (the Lesson) by Eugene Ionesco – 7/10
Contemporary French Science Fiction
La Voyage a la Lune by Georges Melies (1902)
Based on Jules Verne’s “A la Terre a la Lune”, this is the silent film in full – ignore the French woman speaking over the top.
Come on, this title is SO COOL. Who else gets to study Scifi at university AND get graded on it? However it turns out 9am lectures in French on “le cyy-buurr poonk” aren’t half as fun as they’re cracked up to be. While I learned a lot about genres within science fiction (there are MANY), it also made me realise that I didn’t exactly know what Scifi was, and confused it with fantasy. I seemed to miss that it is actually Scientific Fiction – i.e. unlike, say, Harry Potter or Doctor Who, a novel which while discusses unusual concepts, can be grounded in reality, and is referential to real life. While I got a good mark and don’t regret the module, it made me realise that Scifi is perhaps more exciting in blockbuster films.
“Autour de la Lune” by Jules Verne – 6/10
“La Nuit des Temps” by Rene Barjavel – 8/10
The film “Le Dernier Combat” directed by Luc Besson – 3/10.
“Le silence de la cite” by Elisabeth Vornaburg – 2/10.
Caribbean Francophone Writing
An excerpt from “Sugar Cane Alley”, which won many Cesar awards, doncha know.
I absolutely LOVED this module, especially because it was learning about an area of non-metropolitan French-speaking France. The Caribbean islands we studied were, namely Guadeloupe and Martinique, The question of identity in the Caribbean is really interesting, especially because many do not ‘feel’ French, and in schools little was taught of their own history of the island in the past, instead having to learn about rivers in France. I really liked considering identity, and the novels we studied were good stories at giving a good overview of life in the regions.
I am really glad I decided to study such a different area of France. I do believe it is integral when studying French to consider other French speaking countries and areas, especially overseas departments. It is a fascinating insight to see an overview of what life is like, as a French person – who isn’t white, isn’t called Pierre, and doesn’t live anywhere near Paris.
“Peau Noir, Masques Blancs” (Black Skin, White Masks)
“Traversee de la Mangrove” (Crossing the Mangrove) by Marayse Conde: 8/10.
“La Rue Cases-Negres” (Black Shack Alley) by Joseph Zobel. 8/10.
I love learning about cultures and thought this would be a really interesting insight into African culture, but the problem was that we simply covered too much. One minute we’d be discussing educational policy in Burkina Faso, and then we’d watch a documentary on Senegal. While I have a good beginning idea of issues and culture in the West French-speaking Africa, the module wasn’t very focused. We studied a documentary, songs by Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly, education and language policy, and a book I never bothered reading. I really enjoyed the music, which is much more political than in the UK and the US, but the rest of the module seemed a bit unstructured and unclear.
I regret none of these modules because I now have a good cultural understanding of many aspects of French, and French speaking culture. As I studied French politics and French economics last year, I feel like I now know about a broad range of things… but nothing in detail. The modules I have chosen in Strasbourg are also varied, and if I get them I will be learning more ‘traditional’ aspects of French literature, although have also decided to study beginners’ Latin, and Ancient Greek History and Civilisation… rock’n’roll.