Français 2720: The Contemporary French

"Why Are The French So ...?"

Prof. Charles J. Stivale

M W 11:45 AM - 1:10 PM - - 3 credits - - - 0269 Manoogian

Any official University or College policy, official date, or other important information over which the Department has no control is cited for the convenience of the student only. Please refer to the University Bulletin, the Student Handbook, the Schedule of Classes, or other appropriate University publications for official confirmation of same.

INSTRUCTOR: Charles J. Stivale (Romance Langs & Lits), 361 Manoogian, 577-0970:
Office hours: M&W 10:45 AM-11:30 AM, 2:00 PM-3:00 PM, and by appointment

The General Education Foreign Culture Requirement

The course which this syllabus describes is part of the WSU General Education Program and it satisfies the Foreign Culture (FC) requirement: A significant measure of a college education is the degree to which individual cultural assumptions can be placed in the context of a wider and more diversified world view. Such understanding leads to greater appreciation for the life style and artifacts of different peoples and a tolerance for opinions originating from disparate traditions by helping minimize narrow certainties and dispel provincial attitudes.

Course Overview:
The proposed topic of FRE 2720, "The Contemporary French," is "Why Are The French So …?" The participants will study issues of cultural difference and similarity, with the goal of helping students to comprehend the multifaceted love-hate relationship between the American and French cultures. One recent example of this subject's currency must suffice, drawn from the 13 October, 2003, issue of The New Yorker. Commenting on Laura Bush's recent visit to France, Adam Gopnik writes: "The real question isn't why the French are they way they are but, rather, why so many other people are now like the French." This statement is paradoxical not only because, in the new era of Freedom Fries, Americans generally do not think anyone could (or should) be French-like, least of all Americans, but also because the French judge themselves as constituting the global cultural exception, thus unlike anyone else at all.

Yet, since the start of the American experience in the eighteenth century, our country has maintained its distinction from France while also embracing its many fashions, cultural achievements, and modes of thought, and of course, vice versa! By drawing from recent books, articles, films, and music that emphasize these cultural differences and similarities, the Seminar will develop the students' awareness of a Franco-American tug of war between attraction and repulsion as a means to develop their skills in critical thinking, reading, and oral and written expression.

Goals and Objectives of the Course:
As this course fulfills the General Education Foreign Culture requirement, its goals are multiple:
-- Opportunities for thinking, reading, and expression: The ready availability of a rich and accessible spectrum of books (e.g. Nadeau and Barlow's Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, 2003; Gorrara and Langford's France Since the Revolution) as well as recent articles offers an array of textual material for students' reflection, discussion, and written assignments on issues of cultural distinction, difference and similarity. Students will also be expected to express themselves orally, in short written essays, on Listserv strings generated by course topics, and with a course log to be reviewed by the instructor at intervals throughout the semester.
-- Pursuit of scholarly inquiry: Course assignments will include three written tasks of varying lengths including a final project or a take-home examination on topics of comparative cultural analysis chosen by the student in consultation with the instructor.
-- Use of campus and city resources: City opportunities include films assignments (at the Detroit Film Theater).
-- Exploit on-line resources: As indicated above, the course includes a Web component via Blackboard to make materials available, allow students to discuss topics via threaded discussion, and to remain in contact with the course instructor.
-- Employ support services: In pursuit of the aforementioned goals, especially those of writing and expression, all students are strongly encouraged to visit the Academic Success Center and Writing Center (2100 Adamany Library).

Texts and Materials:
Required: Gorrara, Claire, and Rachel Langford. France Since the Revolution: Texts and Contexts. New
York: Arnold Publishers, 2003.
Nadeau, Jean-Benoît, and Julie Barlow. Sixty-Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong. New York:
Sourcebook Trade, 2003.
Additional handouts distributed in class, on library reserve, or via Blackboard access.

"Documents" on the WEB:
In this course, we will utilize the pedagogical Web platform, "Blackboard," accessible at http://www. (or linked to the WSU Pipeline). You will find there the following tools:
- Under the Welcome Page, special announcements may appear at varying intervals.
- Under Course Information, this course outline appears (available also in paper format in class at the start of the semester).
- Under Staff Information, information on Prof. Stivale's office hours, contact data, etc.
- Under Course Documents, various texts (when available online) to be linked for downloading (otherwise, dossier remains empty).
- Under "Homework," the links to daily Quizes (pre-class and post-class), also accessible from the announcement board at the opening page of the course site.
- Under "Assignments," three documents:
a) The Detailed Course Program, i.e. the particular assignments to prepare for each class;
b) The Guide for Take-Home Exams, i.e. an explanation of the exams required throughout the semester;
c) The Response Assignment Guidelines, i.e. detailed information about completing the Response Assignments plus the schedule for these assignments.
- Under Communication, several useful facilities: 1) an Email location for easy email access; 2) the Discussion Board where you will post discussion comments and responses as indicated on the supplementary Response Assignment Guidelines; 3) a Virtual Chat facility for class members to work online together, in pairs or small groups, from different locations; 4) Group Pages for virtual chat, file exchange, and email within individual Response Groups (not for posting Responses).
- Under External Links, links to Stivale's "Contemporary French and Cultural Studies" Web page and to other links to help find French news and culture information.
- Under "Tools," several useful facilities: 1) A Digital Drop Box [however, as I do not check this facility, I much prefer that you email assignments directly to me rather than utilize this facility, via attachment in .doc or .rtf format, to; 2) Personal Information, i.e. information about yourself that you can limit or expand based on your desire for privacy; 3) a course Calendar with a class-by-class overview; 4) Check Grade facility, where you can verify your grades over the course of the semester.

Assessment of Learning and Grading Policy: The grading policy and assessment of learning are organized as follows:
a. Participation (in class, attendance, online work, monthly French Watch Log) = 25%
b. Take Home Exams 1-2-3 = 10% each = 30%
c. Quizzes (15) = 15%
d. Final French Watch Log Report = 10%
e. Final project/Take Home Exam = 20%

The final take-home examination will be distributed during the weeks before the end of classes. It or the final project (depending on the student's choice) will be due on Monday, December 19, noon, 487 Manoogian (or via email).

See below for specific details on each of these aspects of the Assessment of Learning:

a. Participation (in class, online, attendance):

a-1. In class: A significant part of the final grade corresponds to the level of continuous preparation and participation in class, as well as regular class attendance. Students are expected to prepare carefully each assignment before coming to class. The Quizzes and Threaded Discussion Responses will also require careful preparation.

a-2. Policy on attendance: It is expected that each student will be present at every class, will arrive on time, and will be present until the end of each class period. A maximum of four absences will be permitted for the entire semester (no questions asked), but only two per seven-week section of the course. In other words, if you miss three classes before midterm, one is unexcused; if you miss no more classes subsequently, then all absences are excused. Beyond these two absences, further absences will directly affect the final participation grade. Excused absences are those due to illness (with medical statement) or a death in the family. Absences due to the demands of a full- or part-time job are not excused absences, nor are absences due to car trouble, or conflicts with other courses (especially those preceding or following our class periods). After the fourth absence, each succeeding unexcused absence will incur 1% deduction from the final grade.

PRACTICAL ADVICE: If you can foresee an inevitable absence, please consult with Prof. Stivale before the absence. Although this consultation does not in itself constitute an excused absence, it helps provide a better understanding of extenuating circumstances.

a-3. Online Participation: Students will be required to post to the course's Threaded Discussions as indicated on the Detailed Course Program and the Response Assignment Guidelines. These posts should address the questions, but can also raise other issues, questions, points left unclear in the readings. Students can also gain extra credit in such threaded discussions by responding to individual student comments, with points of agreement or disagreement to be raised subsequently in class.

a-4. French Watch Log: As part of an ongoing assignment to be turned in at the end of the semester for a separate overall grade, the participants will turn in their ongoing preparation of a French Watch Log. This log will consist of an ongoing diary, preferably kept electronically (a Web Log online, or simply as a continuing document file). Each student will begin by surveying ongoing stories in the French news through online links, and then will follow at least two such stories in detail throughout the semester, commenting on these on a regular intervals (e.g. every 2-3 days) in order to complete the commentaries for the final French Watch Log (see explanation below). Students will submit the current version of the French Watch Log on (or immediately before) each Work Day as indicated on the syllabus.

b. Take-home Exams (3):
At regular intervals during the semester, the course participants will prepare a take-home exam based on questions that will be distributed during the week prior to the due date. Refer to the Guide for Take-home Exams for more details. To each exam will correspond a work day when classes do not meet to allow students additional time to complete the assignment. Hence late submission of written work risks reducing the overall grade for the assignments, i.e. the loss of one letter grade per day late.

c. Quizzes:
To take a Quiz for a particular class for which an online Quiz has been prepared (including the Sample Quiz that corresponds to Nadeau/Barlow, chapter 1, week 1/day 2 [1.2]), each student will access the Blackboard platform. The Quizes are designated as follows:
For a given class, e.g. 2.2 (week 2/day 2, the first real Quiz 1), each student will take Quiz 2.2-A in advance of the course meeting, i..e. by 11 AM on the day of class. Please note that questions for the Quiz A (usually true/false and/or matchings) will be taken from the text of the chapter(s) in Nadeau/Barlow and FSR (or other texts) designated for that day's readings.
Please note that quiz A, for each Monday class, is available from the previous Friday, 6 PM, until that Monday, 11 AM, just prior to class; quiz A, for each Wednesday class, is available from Monday (two days earlier), 6 PM, until that Wednesday, 11 AM, just prior to class.
After the class meeting, each student will have a chance to take another quiz, e.g. 2.2-B, either to receive a quiz grade for the day (if you missed the time-limit for taking the Quiz A before the class), or to receive a better grade (if you already took the Quiz A and did not like your grade). The questions for the Quiz B will be taken from Nadeau/Barlow or other readings required for the class, and will be in short essay question format.
Please note that quiz B, following each Monday class, is available from Monday 3 PM, until the next day, Tuesday, 6 PM; quiz B, following each Wednesday class, is available from Wednesday 3 PM, until the next day, Thursday, 6 PM.
Please note also that whereas the grades for the Quiz A sections will be immediately available via Blackboard automatic grading once the quiz is graded, the Quiz B sections require individual grading of the essay questions by Prof. Stivale, and the grades will be available only in the next class period.
The average of all quizzes taken (for the final grade) will be based on the fifteen best grades received, either on the Quizes A or on the Quizes B.

d. French Watch Log: As noted above, you will be graded under Participation for the regular development of the French Watch Log, and will receive a final, cumulative grade for the Log at the end of the semester, due on the final day of class (or by noon Friday thereafter at latest). Sources for your Log can include verifiable print accounts in the press and magazines, television and radio reports (accurately recorded in the Log), and online daily reports. Simply cutting-and-pasting reports from Web sources into your Log will not suffice as constituting a personal Log.

e. Final Project/Take-Home Exam

e-1. Final Project
This Final Project, that students may choose to undertake, will be due during Finals Week, April 28, noon, at latest (earlier if possible). The project will correspond to a topic of interest that the student has developed while reading Nadeau/Barlow and other materials, and while completing the individual projects earlier in the semester. The project must be typed/word-processed, well-organized, in legible and standard English, and should be 8-10 pages in length with appropriate bibliography and attribution of sources.

e-2. Take-home Final:
Rather than prepare a Final Project, students may opt to respond to a group of essay questions that correspond to different topics we will have discussed during the course of the semester, and will be due during Finals Week, April 28, noon at latest (earlier if possible). The answers may require additional research on the students' part. The take-home must be typed/word-processed, well-organized, in legible and standard English, and should be 8-10 pages in length with appropriate bibliography and attribution of sources.

The Department presumes the existence of an Honor System at all times. Your name or signature on exams, logs and project assignments implies that the work is yours alone.

Obligations of Students to the Instructional Process: All students are expected to be familiar with the University statement on responsibilities found in the University Bulletin and in the Student Handbook. Any problem that may arise should be discussed immediately and first of all with the current instructor. If a resolution is not reached, the problem may be referred to Prof Stivale (

Class Schedule : See attached Detailed Course Program for specifics on assignments