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.
Inquiries about the Major or Minor
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, 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.
Cecelia Lawless’ office hours are listed on the Department Directory and Office House page
We expect our undergraduate majors to demonstrate:
- An understanding of the artistic, cultural, political, and social movements within the interdisciplinary field that includes various methodologies (visual and iconographical analysis, semiotics, social history, material science, ecocriticism, etc.) and theoretical models (critical theory, feminism, Marxism, materiality, cultural memory, postcolonialism, etc.) throughout history
- Critical inquiry and analytical writing in English and the target language
- The ability to conduct independent research and collaborate creatively within broader regional and global contexts
- The breadth of knowledge needed to identify, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate cultural theories within specific cultural contexts and theoretical frameworks
- An awareness of the ethical implications of one’s own work within the academic community and society
- Mastery of a Romance language –French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish – at the second year level or higher
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.
For students entering Cornell as of Fall 2020, requirements for the major are eight courses focusing on the French and Francophone world after the 2095 level, including:
FREN 2310 – Introduction to French and Francophone Literature and Culture, or FREN 2320 -- Introduction to French and Francophone Film,
At least one course on the Francophone world,
At least one course at the 4000-level.
Please note that:
Major requirements for students who entered Cornell prior to the Fall 2020 semester have not changed.
Students may declare the major any time after completing FREN 2090 (or FREN 2080, 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.
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.
For students entering Cornell as of Fall 2020, requirements for the minor are five courses focusing on the French and Francophone world after the 2095 level.
Please note that:
- Minor requirements for students who entered Cornell prior to the Fall 2020 semester have not changed.
- 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 minor is B-.
- S/U grades are only allowed for one of the courses applied to the French minor.
Please refer to the French section of the Romance Studies Course Offerings list. See our departmental course roster here.
Completing the French, Italian, or Spanish major with Honors allows students to do independent study on a topic they choose, to work closely with a faculty adviser, and to write a researched critically analytical paper. For information about completing your major with Honors, please click on the following links: