French 232: The Other France

EXAMPLE DAY 1: For our first day of class, I wanted to give the students an overview of the major dates and events that some of our readings would be linking together. It was important for students to understand the intimate, tragic, and traumatic history of France in the colonies, particularly Algeria, as context for the first readings, which establish connections between this past and the present situation in France. I thus chose to use a digital timeline for my lecture. This media gave me the advantage both of being able to place the events chronologically in relation to one another, and of adding all sorts of interesting digital documents, including video, art, and photography, to illustrate my talk.






EXAMPLE DAY TWO: In preparation for the second day of class, students had read two articles – one from The New Yorker, and one from The New York Times – that presented starkly contrasting images of the city of Paris. In class, I split them up into two groups: one dealing with ‘myths’; the other, ‘realities’. Each group discussed their impressions of the readings and then compiled a list of key points that seemed to demonstrate the theme they had been assigned. As we talked about each of the items they’d highlighted, I offered further clarifications, explained key information, or helped students to understand the complexity of an issue, in order to sensitize them to over-simplification or generalization. Finally, I pointed out some of the references to ‘the other France’ that were hidden in the article from The New York Times. These included the allusion to the martyr Saint-Denis, for whom the neighborhood of the 93 is named; the Rossini opera that the author saw at the Palais Garnier, ‘L’italiana in Algeri’, or ‘The Italian in Algeria’; and the reference to Baudelaire’s ‘Le Peintre de la vie moderne’, which describes quite uncannily the experience of the Other: “in which you “see the world,” are “at the center of the world,” and yet “remain hidden from the world.”


I translated into English a short text published by Marguerite Duras in the France-observateur in 1957 so that students could see how certain French intellectuals such as the signers of the Manifeste des 121 used literature and the press to challenge widely-accepted social prejudices against Algerian immigrants in France at the time.

The Algerian’s Flowers


Today we discussed terrorism in France and watched a news report about the hero of the Hypercacher hostage taking. I also created a multimedia timeline (see below) on the subject of terrorism, the state of emergency, and new security measures in France, and we studied the legal texts on freedom of expression and secularism.

Timeline here