Pont Neuf


Le Pont Neuf, Paris's oldest bridge, inaugurated in 1607 under the reign of Henri IV.

Image credit: Henry Marion, some rights reserved.

I have taught ten courses in my time at Wellesley, including introductory language, literature survey courses, and more specialized seminars on early modern French culture. Here are a sampling of some of my most recently-taught courses:

FRENCH 210 A: French Literature and Culture Through the Centuries Topic:  From the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. (Students can fulfill a requirement for the major by taking one of the following:  FREN 210A, FREN 210B or FREN 211). 

Major authors from the Medieval period through the Enlightenment studied in their historical and cultural contexts, with emphasis on close reading, critical analysis, and writing in French. Attention to literary genres, including the constraints and innovations they engender, and study of key notions that will inform students’ understanding of French literature and history—galanterie, courtoisie, mimesis, poetics, epistolarity, Salic law, French Wars of Religion, the Edict of Nantes, and Absolutism.


FRENCH 224: Literature and Culture of the Court of Versailles under the Reign of Louis XIV. (Prerequisite: At least one unit of FREN 206, FREN 207, FREN 208, FREN 209 or above, an SAT II score of 690-800, an equivalent departmental placement score, or an AP score of 5).

A study of the authors who frequented the court of Louis XIV (La Bruyère, Saint Simon, La Fontaine, La Rochefoucauld, Sévigné, Lafayette) as they focus on the dangerous intrigues, moral corruption and petty rivalries in contrast to the narratives of grandeur and magnificence advance by royal panegyrics. Close study of official and unofficial court productions. Royal paintings, architecture, ceremonies and official historiography foreground the Sun King’s glory while, in its shadows, novels, memoirs, letters and moral treatises seem to undo the very notions of courtly brilliance. Both elements are crucial to understanding the social, political, religious and artistic practices that defined Versailles and the varying fictions of royal power that emanated from it.


FRENCH 241: Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Genre of Comedy (Prerequisite: At least one unit of FREN 206, FREN 207, FREN 208, FREN 209 or above, an SAT II score of 690-800, an equivalent departmental placement score, or an AP score of 5).

This course examines the evolution of the French comedic genre, encouraging students to reflect upon their own sense of the comical and compare it with that of pre-revolutionary audiences. Molière and Marivaux anchor the analysis of the formal conventions, linguistic registers, themes, tropes, and character-types of comedy. Readings include works of Corneille, Voltaire, and Beaumarchais Contemporary film and comedic routines sharpen student awareness of the lasting influence these and other early-modern playwrights have had on French humor. 


300-level, Advanced Literature Courses

FRENCH 303 Topic: “Long Live the Queen!” Women, Royalty and Power in Literature of the Ancien Régime. Prerequisite: FREN 211 and one additional unit, FREN 213 or above.

This seminar examines historical, cultural and literary portrayals of female royalty in seventeenth-century France. An object of exchange in international relations, a physical "carrier" of the future king, a regent who can rule—but not in her own name—, the queen poses thorny questions for political and artistic representations of power. An analysis of her social, symbolic and politically-ambiguous status reveals the paradoxes of a woman exercising sovereignty in a time when the king's body comes to define the State. Readings include Corneille, Racine, Lafayette, Perrault and Saint-Réal.


FRENCH 333: French Classical Tragedy: Corneille versus Racine: Rethinking the Parallel. Prerequisite: FREN 211 or, for students entering in 2014 or later, FREN 210; and one additional unit, FREN 213 or above.

This course takes a critical look at the archetypal Corneille-Racine parallel in the light of important but marginalized playwrights such as Jean Rotrou, Tristan l’Hermite, and Catherine Bernard, whose works do not fit standard definitions of Classicism and tragedy. This encounter leads students to question the notion of auteurs classiques and the seventeenth century’s status as the “Grand Siècle.” We explore the many variations on the Corneille-Racine theme, asking if there is a “grand Corneille” and a “tender Racine,” and considering why in certain historical periods one playwright was considered to encapsulate “French values” and patriotism more than the other. Students will become familiar with an array of seventeenth-century tragedies and reflect on the process and politics of literary canonization. 

This course was taught as part of the Dean’s Collaborative Initiative in the Humanities. For details, see: http://www.wellesley.edu/news/2015/02/node/56806


Course Taught in English, Outside the Department
First-year Writing Course
Maurer Public Speaking Initiative Course

Writing 125: “Do French Women Really…?” Prerequisite: None

From their legendary ability to stay thin, to their shrewd mothering skills, sophisticated charm, culinary prowess, and sexual savoir-faire, les Françaises—French women—have long held American commentators in thrall. We explore the complexity of twenty-first century portrayals of French women as models of a unique vein of femininity. Focus will rest on on how writers construct images of French women from three directions: through close readings, critiques of authorial voice, and the analysis of supporting evidence. We investigate portrayals of la Française in self-help books, memoirs, feminist manifestos, film, fiction, and historical accounts. Participants analyze, then imitate the texts considered, paying close attention to how the choice of a particular genre sheds light on the author’s development of his or her thesis.