French, Francophone, and Italian Studies

Academic Department Introduction

Courses in the Department of French, Francophone, and Italian Studies open doors to cultures that are rich in tradition and deeply significant in today’s diversifying world. With few exceptions, our courses are taught in French or Italian. The subjects span 10 centuries, from the Middle Ages to the present. Our courses are designed to help students develop a number of critical life skills—linguistic, analytical, interpretive, expressive, creative. We offer opportunities to study abroad for the three-week Wintersession, a semester, or a year.

To move among multiple frames of cultural reference, to inhabit the alternate personae that come with mastery of another tongue, to know the sounds, songs, and idioms of French or Italian—these are deep intellectual pleasures. They are also highly useful tools in the real world.

Learning goals

  • Speak, write, read, and understand French or Italian at the advanced level.
  • Develop advanced knowledge of the major authors and works from a variety of genres—poetry, prose, theater, cinema—that form, but also contest, French or Italian literary traditions and cultural heritages.
  • Acquire the critical thinking skills and the methodological and theoretical grounding needed to pursue studies at the graduate school level.

Programs of study

French major and minor

Students acquire analytical and critical skills in speaking and writing through exposure to French literature, film, history, social and political movements, and legal questions.

French cultural studies major

Students whose interests in the French and Francophone world are primarily cultural and historical take courses in the department of French as well as in Africana studies, art, history, music, and/or political science.

Italian major and minor

Students develop advanced knowledge of the major authors and works from a variety of genres—poetry, prose, theater, cinema—that form, but also contest, Italy’s literary tradition and cultural heritage, and understand the crucial moments and events of Italian history and culture, from the Middle Ages to the present.

Course Highlights

  • What makes literature “new”? This course examines the ways in which French writers of the 20th and 21st centuries have radically transformed the field of fiction through playful and experimental techniques. We will study the literary games they played in their efforts to break with tradition and expand the boundaries of language, genre, and form. Through a range of texts and audiovisual materials, we will trace this idea of play across the 20th and 21st centuries, with examples taken from the nouveau roman, the OuLiPo, écriture féminine, autofiction, documentary fiction, photo-texts, and digital literature. In the spirit of the materials studied, course assignments will include traditional essays as well as more experimental writing projects.

Research highlights

  • Sergio Parussa sits at a chair in his office reading a book. He is wearing a blue sweater and has a content, calm face.

    Professor Sergio Parussa’s annotated edition of Giorgio Bassani’s novel The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is forthcoming from the Italian publisher Feltrinelli. Students helped Parussa and the Fondazione Giorgio Bassani collect, digitize, and catalog archival material, such as the novel’s manuscript and typescript, on which the annotated edition is based.

  • Hélène Bilis stands in front of a colorful bulletin board and lectures to students offscreen. She is smiling and wearing a pinstripe blazer.

    With a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Professor Hélène Bilis developed a digital pedagogical edition and new translation of Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves with three colleagues from liberal arts colleges.

  • Professor Flavia Laviosa talks with a student as they sit at a table.

    Senior Lecturer Flavia Laviosa is the founder and editor of the book series Trajectories of Italian Cinema and Media and of the Journal of Italian Cinema & Media Studies, both published by Intellect Ltd. Her research examines representations of violence against women in world cinema and media.

  • French professor Scott Gunther talks to someone at a table across from him.

    Professor Scott Gunther’s chapter for Queer Realms of Memory: Archiving LGBTQ Identities in the French National Narrative (Liverpool University Press, forthcoming) examines the aesthetic strategies behind the design of two new memorials in Paris, one dedicated to remembrance of French homosexual deportees during World War II, and the other commemorating the AIDS crisis in France.


  • La Maison Française

    The maison offers an immersive residential experience. Fourteen Wellesley students and two students from Aix Marseille Université together cook their meals and host events, speaking only French. A cultural center for the Francophone communities of Wellesley and the greater Boston area, la Maison Française sponsors game nights, flower-planting, conferences, and lectures featuring an impressive list of notable guests.

  • Study abroad in France

    The Wellesley-in-Aix program in southern France provides a unique opportunity to experience French student culture and daily life through direct enrollment in French institutions, homestays, volunteer opportunities, and other activities.

  • Study abroad in Italy

    Students can experience a full cultural immersion through Wintersession in Rome, a language-intensive three-week program. Or they can spend a semester or year at the University of Bologna, through ECCO, a program jointly run by Vassar College, Wesleyan University, and Wellesley College. Bologna is home to several preeminent institutions engaged in human rights, women’s history, gender studies, and social justice.

  • Summer internships in French-speaking countries

    The Michèle Respaut French House Fellows Program provides students with stipends to pursue summer internships in France or other French-speaking countries.

  • Summer internships in Italy

    We offer internships with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection museum in Venice, Kitchenfilm in Turin, and Libera in southern Italy.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

French, Francophone, and Italian studies graduates distinguish themselves in a variety of professional fields. These include education (including higher education), medicine, law, business, and finance. Recent employers include Partners in Health, Johnson & Johnson, and the French government’s Ministry of National Education, Youth, and Sports.

Alum highlights

  • Jordan Stephens-Moseley ’16

    Jordan Stephens-Moseley ’16, who double majored in Italian studies and women’s and gender studies, earned a master’s in public health with a focus on maternal and child health from Tulane University. A public health research analyst, Stephens-Moseley strives to improve global health systems through policy change.

  • Folake Akinola-Pinard ’93

    Folake Akinola-Pinard ’93 double majored in French studies and Africana studies and spent her junior year in France with Wellesley-in-Aix. After earning her master’s degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University, Akinola-Pinard taught elementary school and filled a variety of leadership roles. She is currently the principal of Brooklyn Prospect Downtown Elementary.

Department of French, Francophone, and Italian Studies

Green Hall
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Scott Gunther
Department Chair