French for Undergraduates
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You may want to study French for a variety of reasons: perhaps you’re curious about twenty-first-century Paris, one of the most diverse cities in the world; perhaps you want to know more about French philosophy, or literature, or film; perhaps you’re interested in the Francophone world, which spans from Africa to the Caribbean to Québec. Is it the French past that inspires you—for example, the knights and ladies and monks and nuns of the Middle Ages—or is it the French present? Are you interested in speaking and writing French more fluently, or are you particularly interested in thinking with the objects that French and Francophone cultures have produced? Our course offerings are designed to have something for virtually everyone: from courtly love to religious violence, from film to theology to lyric poetry, you’ll have a chance to encounter objects that make your world at once more familiar and more strange, objects that pique your curiosity and give you a chance to try out new languages, very much including but not by any means limited to French.
Placement and Transfer of Credit
For information about placement, testing, and transfer of credit, please visit our placement page.
The French major prepares students to engage with French and Francophone literary, philosophical, and visual cultures. Along the way, students will develop proficiency in oral, aural, and written French, while becoming astute critical readers and thinkers in French.
Required for the major are nine courses focusing on the French and Francophone world at the 2095 level and higher, including:
FREN 2310 – Introduction to French and Francophone Literature and Culture,
At least one course on the Francophone world,
At least one course at the 4000-level.
Please note that:
Students may declare the major any time after completing FREN 2090 (or FREN 2060, or after placing into a more advanced French course).
Students are welcome to apply up to two Cornell University courses from outside the Department of Romance Studies (e.g., courses in Comparative Literature, History, History of Art) toward the French major, provided that 50% of the content of those courses deals directly with France or the Francophone world.
Students are also encouraged to study abroad: courses from an institution other than Cornell University (such as EDUCO in Paris) may be counted toward the French major, provided that 50% of the content of these courses, again, deals directly with France or the Francophone world. (Merely being taught in French is not, on its own, a sufficient criterion for a course taken abroad to count for the French major.) Remember that you cannot apply more than three courses taken abroad to the Major.
The minimum grade for a course to be applied to the French major is B-.
S/U grades are not allowed in courses applied to the French major.
Inquiries of a general nature can first be directed to the Undergraduate Coordinator, Cal Hile. Students who wish to major or minor in French are advised to consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Cecelia Lawless, who admits students into the major and assigns a faculty adviser after taking into account a student’s interest, preparation, and career goals.
The French minor is designed to give students pursuing other majors the opportunity to engage with and reflect upon French and Francophone literary, philosophical, and visual cultures.
Required for the minor are five courses focusing on the French and Francophone world at the 2095 level and higher.
Please note that:
- Students may apply up to two courses from abroad or from another institution toward a French minor. Courses from an institution other than Cornell University (such as EDUCO in Paris) may be counted toward the French minor, provided that 50% of the content of these courses, again, deals directly with France or the Francophone world. (Merely being taught in French is not, on its own, a sufficient criterion for a course taken abroad to count for the French minor.) Remember that you cannot apply more than two courses taken abroad to the Minor.
- The minimum grade for a course to be applied to the French minimum is B-.
- S/U grades are only allowed for one of the courses applied to the French major.
Please refer to the French section of the Romance Studies Course Offerings list. See our departmental course roster here.
The honors program encourages well-qualified students majoring in French literature and culture to do independent work in French beyond the required course work for the major. The preparation of the senior honors essay, generally spread over two semesters, provides a unique learning opportunity, since it allows for wide reading and extensive rewriting to a degree not possible in the case of course papers.
To be eligible for honors, students must have a general grade point average of at least 3.00 and a grade point average of at least 3.5 in the French major.
No special seminars or courses are required of honors students, but they will have regular meetings with the faculty advisors who have agreed to supervise their work. They may receive course credit by enrolling in FREN 4290–FREN 4300, but these independent study courses must be taken in addition to the courses that meet the minimum requirements for the major. At the end of the senior year, each honors student is examined orally on the honors essay by a jury consisting of his or her faculty advisor and two other faculty members. The senior essay is to be made available for reading by the jury on or before April 15. The awarding of honors is determined by the student’s grades in the major and the quality of the honors essay.
For inquiries about study abroad programs, please visit these pages.