Undergraduate Research in French

French and RLL Majors are eligible to apply for The Rosen Travel Grant for the summer after their junior year. Recipients are awarded grants between $1500 and $3000 dollars to conduct research in a Francophone country. Applications are due toward the end of March each year. For more information, contact Jack Abecassis.

French students at Pomona College have the opportunity to apply for funding for intensive summer research through the Summer Undergraduate Research Program. Below are recent SURP projects by French students.

Breaking Through the Shadows: A Feminist Re-telling of the French Colonization of Algeria

Joslyn Gardner ’20; Advisor: Peggy Waller

Can fragmentation be a strategy to address and deconstruct cultural and sexist colonization, and if so, how? I examined this question, which is crucial to feminist postcolonial critique, through the autofiction-novel, L’amour, la fantasia (1985) by Assia Djebar (1936-2015). Offering multiple views of the French colonization of Algeria from 1830-1962, from occupation to independence, Djebar’s text fragments the narrative voice, alternating among autobiography, archival documents, and her interviews with Algerian women. I used the novel as my primary source along with secondary sources such as scholarly articles and reviews. A highlight was connecting Homi Bhabha’s cultural theory of the third space and Djebar’s writing style. The third space is both “precarious and inspirational; despite its discomfort, it may be the locus of creation and empowerment” (Edwards 18). Djebar experiences the instability of her identities because colonialism separated her from her culture, language, and people. However, out of this conflict, she creates new, unique perspectives not only on autobiography but also on colonization. Her fragmented writing decenters the individual and calls for a decolonial solidarity that “creates a middle ground, a middle self, in which the subject is neither “I” nor “we” but rather a “more than me” (20). She breaks through the shadows of imposed silence by writing “next to” women who preceded her own resistance to colonial power.

Caminar hacia mi: (Re)Discovering Latin American Identity in Paris

Haley Ferguson ’18; Mentor: Virginie Pouzet-Duzer

My project focuses on the Latin American writers Alejo Carpentier and Julio Cortázar, both of whom spent much of their adult lives in Paris, with the goal of uncovering how the city shaped their approaches to the expression of Latin American identity. In order to understand the historical and personal factors surrounding their journeys to Paris, I consulted a variety of sources in English, French and Spanish, drawing primarily upon the resources of The Claremont Colleges Library and the archives of the Fundación Alejo Carpentier in Havana. I applied this contextual knowledge to Carpentier’s “El reino de este mundo” and Cortázar’s “Rayuela” in order to examine the influence of Paris in their fiction. Carpentier believed that his interactions with the French surrealists allowed him to see his culture through the eyes of a foreigner and thus recognize the “marvelous” aspect of American reality. The impact of this experience is evident in his concept of lo real maravilloso and the use of perspective in “El reino de este mundo.” Cortázar maintained that living in Paris gave him a more global perspective on his homeland that divorced itself from the “challenge and response” of daily reality in Argentina. “Rayuela” represents a literary “exorcism” of the psychological conflicts he faced during his first few years abroad, including the existential shock of moving between vastly different geographical and cultural spaces and the difficulty of gaining acceptance as an outsider in French society.
Funding Provided By: Aubrey H. & Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund

Hidden Voices: Complexities of Becoming a Woman in XIX-XX Century France

Tiffany Mi ’19; Mentor: Virginie Pouzet-Duzer

What does "coming of age" entail for young women in late 19th and early 20th century France? How did they receive the "correct" knowledge to transition into womanhood? Imbued with layers of messages, postcards were a significant medium through which young women would communicate with and learn from each other. These exchanges not only reflected societal beliefs on how women ought to behave, but also shed insight on these young women's responses to the social pressures that often barred them from leaving the domestic sphere. This project constitutes an important segment of Prof. Duzer's research, "Les savoirs des femmes," which investigates women's roles in France (1880-1920). Specifically, my research assistantship revolved around postcards dispatched among young French women in the early 20th century. My methods included researching about women in France, as well as scanning, archiving, organizing and watermarking, transcribing and translating nearly 150 postcards front and back. An interesting trend is that the images of the cards often show women in the household, reinforcing the "Angel of the Hearth" doctrine. Other cards make use of irony or sarcasm to suggest women's supposed frivolity. Still others portray the young woman as bright and empowered, yet caged within societal gender barriers. Overall, I received great insight on how societal ideas influenced young women growing up during a time of increased sex equality in a nonetheless patriarchal society.
Funding Provided By: Faucett Catalyst Fund SURP Grant

Loanwords as Lifestyle: Anglicisms and queer self-fashioning in T.A.T.U magazine (1995-2015)

William Curtis ’18; Advisor: David Divita

Various sociolinguists have noted the homogenizing role that technology and advertising have played in normalizing queerness under conditions of late modernity, citing in particular the influence of Anglo-American norms in transnational sexuality discourse (Leap & Boellstorff 2004; Provencher 2004, 2007). To examine the intersections among globalization, queerness and language, the project aimed to compile an index of English loanwords in T.A.T.U, a French-language gay lifestyle magazine in print from 1995 to 2015, thus straddling the AIDS epidemic of the 1980-90s and the rapid technological developments of the early 2000s. Hailing itself as the leader of the French gay press, it constructed for readers a supranational gay identity that was defined largely as taste, borrowing from the English language to do so. In this project I created a comprehensive list of anglicisms (e.g., un must-have, le coming-out) across 21 representative issues of the magazine, one from each year of T.A.T.U publication; I then coded these words according to themes (e.g., “clothing,” “visibility”), thus highlighting discourses where anglicisms appear and the way they change over time. Initially clustering around discourses of visibility in coverage of events like “la Gay Pride,” anglicisms in later issues cumulate around discourses of consumption. Taste becomes highly anglicized, while discussions of high culture and politics tend to avoid English borrowings, thereby respecting French linguistic norms.
Funding Provided By: Faucett Catalyst Fund SURP Grant