- The Undergraduate Major in French
- French Major Learning Goals
- View Requirements for the Major in French
The undergraduate program in French at Northwestern provides rigorous interdisciplinary training in French language and in the literary, cultural, and intellectual traditions of France and the French-speaking world. Through an encounter with a rich historical landscape of texts, images, and ideas, students develop essential skills in cultural analysis and interpretation. In the process, they gain the linguistic competency and cultural literacy needed to function with ease in any French-language setting, whether in government, the private sector, or education.
We offer extensive training at all levels of language study, from elementary grammar and conversation to advanced oral practice, composition, translation, and linguistics. This foundation prepares students to explore various French and Francophone literary, intellectual, and social movements that have shaped the culture of the modern world. Ranging in scope from the medieval period to the present, our courses consistently draw the link between culture and its contexts, encompassing subject matter as diverse as literature, visual culture, history, gender studies, philosophy, and political thought. Students develop an interdisciplinary mindset through the study of multiple genres, media, and the use of historical documents. Course content ranges widely across the French-speaking world, exposing students to francophone regions in Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and East Asia.
As majors acquire the tools for literary and cultural analysis they also learn about the distinctive contributions of French critical thought. Through various courses, including the senior seminar, students will engage with French-language writers who have revolutionized ways of analyzing culture, society, and the individual. Our students are thus initiated into an intellectual community that prepares them to be linguistically adept, global citizens attuned to the complexities of language and culture as these relate to local and international histories, politics, and artistic movements.
Upon completion of the major, students will, therefore, have attained the following:
1. Advanced proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, and oral comprehension of French.
2. Knowledge of French-language cultural production from different periods and regions, and of its intellectual and historical contexts.
3. Corresponding understanding of the national and cultural diversity of France and the Francophone world in relation to colonial and postcolonial histories.
4. Intellectual engagement with a selection of critical or theoretical works by major French-language authors.
5. The ability to read critically and analyze different genres of cultural production in French (including prose, poetry, drama, non-fiction, and/or visual culture) with attention to both thematic and formal issues. Students will also gain the rhetorical and argumentative skills necessary to convey effectively their interpretations in writing.
The goal of the minor in French is to give students a solid grounding and good fluency in the French language and to provide familiarity with important aspects of the literature, culture, and thought of the French-speaking world. Together these accomplishments will enable students to pursue their interests in French language and in countries where French is used.
The hallmark of the French minor is its simplicity and adaptability to student interests. Students minoring in French receive a basic foundation in language and culture at the 200 level through course work in intermediate language and introductory courses in literary and cultural analysis. This foundation provides a gateway to more advanced, specialized courses in the French language and French and Francophone culture at the 300-level, which are selected based on students' individual interests. Through a simple set of core requirements, all minors take at least one advanced language class and two advanced literature/culture classes of their choice. They further tailor their course of study by choosing two electives in either language or literature and culture. Finally students with advanced placement may waive the required 200-level language course (French 202); those who began their French studies at NU may substitute French 201 for one of the required electives.
Through this careful distribution of courses across levels and fields, minors are exposed to important French and Francophone literary, intellectual, and social trends, ranging from the medieval period to the present. At the same time, they pursue advanced training in one or more specific areas of language study such as grammar, oral practice, composition, phonetics, professional French, translation, and linguistics. The French minor thus prepares students to be linguistically capable, culturally sensitive, and historically aware citizens of an increasingly globalized world.Back to top