All entering students enroll in a First-Year Seminar as part of the College's core requirement for graduation. Small classes like these—with an emphasis on discussion, an opportunity for individualized student research projects, and the development of strong communication skills—serve as the foundation for your undergraduate experience. The seminars below are instructed by professors of French in the Modern Languages and Cultures Department.
The Albion-France connection is rich, vibrant, and longstanding. We continue to have students and alumni living, working, and studying in Grenoble and Paris, while French native speakers live and study at Albion College. As part of the course, we will meet and interview some of these individuals, both at Albion and in France. We will learn from their experiences and insights. As another part of the course, we will study the theories of "culture" and cross-cultural communication, in order to understand which parts of our identity are embedded in American culture, and how our culture acts as a filter through which we understand other cultures.
Course materials include readings such as Cultural Misunderstandings, A Year in Provence, and Au Contraire: Figuring out the French, and we will also draw on French news media and films as well as the Internet. As part of our fieldwork, there will be a trip to France, during fall break, with stays in Paris and in Albion's sister city, Noisy-le-Roi. To enroll in the course, students will need to have studied French for at least two years in high school. A passport and a field trip fee are required.
An instructor for the past 21 years, Dianne Guenin-Lelle (Ph.D., Louisiana State University) has taught a wide array of courses at all levels of French, as well as courses relating to women's studies, ethnic studies, and peace studies. Born in New Orleans, in a family where French is not a "foreign" language, she researches the current cultural renaissance in Southwest Louisiana, post-Katrina studies relating to New Orleans, 17th-century French Quietism, and multicultural teaching. She hopes that her students learn to be more understanding of the richness of the human condition, and more tolerant and accepting of difference. She loves to sail, travel, and spend time with her family.
Pick up a local, national, or international paper; watch the news; read some major texts, even some comics; surf the web and two things become immediately clear to you:
Africa is totally absent, nonexistent, a "blank or enchanting darkness," a "heart of darkness."
If it does appear at all, the picture is that of a continent in crisis, a continent "enmeshed in a web of myth" ranging from "the dark continent or wild Africa," "the place on earth that abounds with wild animals," "the last great wilderness, the untamed paradise, the virgin land," to a continent without a history because, according to some Western historians, "whereas other continents had shaped history and determined its course, Africa had stood still, held down by inertia."
Given the pervasiveness of myths about Africa, this course, with emphasis upon a multidisciplinary perspective, will use several sources—geography, history, newspapers, the Internet, the arts, film, documentaries, literature, etc.—to analyze the myths in order to understand how they have been constructed. The second part of the class will attempt to deconstruct those myths to see the reality hidden behind them, reality that will become clear with the experiential trip to Cameroon in Central Africa.
The objectives of the course are to acquaint you with the "other" Africa and to encourage you to reevaluate some of your basic assumptions; to gain a sense of who Africans are and what they do, feel, and hope for; to develop critical reading, viewing, and surfing skills and an appreciation of African art; and to sharpen your research skills, oral communication, and your ability to analyze and synthesize information.