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French and Italian Department
Arthur D. Greenspan
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It is the goal of the French Department at Colby to introduce students to the literatures and cultures of France and the francophone world. We firmly believe that language is the key that opens many doors, and we pride ourselves in helping students reach exceptionally high levels of fluency. All of our classes, from the first day of the first semester course on through the upper levels, are taught exclusively in French.
In our curriculum that is increasingly integrative and interdisciplinary, we try to strike a balance between courses dealing with France proper and others dealing with the francophone world. In all instances, we look to probe various forms of cultural production that deepen our understanding of the human experience and that awaken our students to values that are not their own. We hope to provide a personally enriching and broadening experience, in large part because we feel that there is nothing more fundamental on which to build a career, and no better way to improve the quality of one’s life.
Among small liberal arts college faculties, Colby’s French staff, with six full-time members, is one of the largest. The number of majors, which fluctuates from year to year, is generally high, with as many as 20 in a graduating class. The last 15 years have seen more and more of our students double-majoring. The greater number are attracted by international studies, but we have seen the French major combined with virtually every discipline on campus: a second foreign language, art history, anthropology, sociology, English, or biology. After graduation, our majors have gone into a broad range of fields, including international business, law, publishing, banking, and teaching. Others have (rather regularly) won competitive awards, such as the prestigious Fulbright fellowship to support teaching in a lycée in France, or the Watson award, which sends its recipients to far-flung parts of the globe to undertake research on an original project. Still others have joined the Peace Corps and served in Morocco, Guinea, and Cameroon, and a number have chosen to pursue French studies further, in some of the best graduate schools in the nation.
All students of language and culture at Colby have at their disposal the resources of a high-tech dernier cri Language Resource Center. Technology is now a commonplace in our classrooms, as faculty members continue to devise innovative ways of teaching language, literature, and culture. Television broadcasts from France and Canada and materials available on the Web are routinely included in class work.
Knowing too that language does not exist in a vacuum—une maison may be a house in the dictionary, but in different cultures une maison and a house don’t look the same, or function the same, or represent the same values—we place special emphasis on the experience abroad. Our majors are required to spend a semester in a French-speaking country, and are strongly encouraged to spend a full year there. Our nonmajors have the opportunity to enroll in Colby’s own semester-long language acquisition program in Dijon (France), or to take part in one of the Jan Plans to the French-speaking world that we offer as often as we can. Over the last few years, Jan Plan groups have gone to Guadeloupe, to Morocco, to Dakar, and to Dijon. There are as well various language-related activities on the campus that are organized by both the department—plays in French, weekly language tables with the assistant(e) from the Ecole Normale Supérieure, and by the French Club—soirées aux crêpes, couscous dinners, the fall trip to Montréal or Québec, and so on.
We hope to get a chance to show you what we mean. A bientôt!
For further information about French at Colby, please contact:
Italian Department +
The study of Italian language and culture offers a unique opportunity to delve into a civilization that is at once very old and very young. The territory that is Italy was at the center of Mediterranean civil development long before the Roman Empire, and while Italy is a pervasive presence that dates back to the origins of western civilization, the nation state that we know as Italy was officially born not that long ago, in 1861.
Here at Colby we believe strongly that the acquisition of a foreign language is a fundamental component of education and of the college experience in general, as is the close examination of a culture other than one’s own. In order to provide our students with the best and greatest possible exposure to the language, we offer numerous courses taught exclusively in Italian, from elementary Italian all the way through our upper-level literature seminars. Recently, our Italian studies program added English-language courses to the curriculum that examine the rich tradition of Italian cinema, from Neorealism to Comedy Italian Style.
We encourage our students to spend a semester in Italy. In the last few years, students have studied in Bologna, Padova, and Parma, often directly enrolling in courses offered at Italian universities and studying alongside their Italian peers. We are currently in the process of approving other programs abroad that would allow students to experience Italian life in an even wider variety of Italian cities. Since January 2006 we have offered a Jan Plan program in the city of Verona, once an important ancient Roman colony and the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
The students who have returned from Italy have invariably had exciting and enriching experiences, whether they were taking courses in art history, language, literature, politics, or civilization. Their interest in Italian studies was so keen that, on their return, many of them requested that advanced courses be offered. To a great extent, we have been able to satisfy these demands, creating a minor in Italian that was officially adopted by the College in the fall of 2002. This too was in great part student initiated, and today we are proud to count some 30 students among our minors.
But of course one need not go abroad to experience Italian culture. Here on the campus we offer a broad range of language-related activities such as Italian movies, the weekly Italian table where students get to practice Italian with our assistente in an informal setting, and excursions to cities near and far to attend opera and theater productions.
Note too that the study of Italian can open doors to a variety of professional opportunities. All over the United States, students with degrees in Italian pursue careers in music, art history, museum work, business, and diplomacy as well as many other fields.
We hope we will have a chance to meet you in one of our Italian classes, and to share with you the wonderful experience of communicating, traveling, building a career, and even learning about yourself and the world around you, in the beautiful language called Italian.