Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Introductory methodology for a series about my French reading, which I sure hope will be more fun than what I wrote here

What I want to do is to stroll, wander, and hike through my French reading of the last couple of years, as it relates to my study of French and for its own sake.  French literature is a subject of high interest.

This is a bad idea for several reasons.  I remember the books poorly, I likely do not have them at hand for reference, and I read them in French, a language I do not understand well.

This is a good idea because it offers ample outstanding opportunities for people to correct my errors, which, I have observed, makes people happy.  It is a kind of public service.

I will likely refer, often, to the educational use of various texts, especially when they are taught, at what level in school, more than how, because I have little idea about the how.  Much of my evidence, which I guess does include quite a bit of how, comes from the superb school editions French publishers produce of a wide range of texts.  They are probably sources of dismay for French school kids, but I loved ‘em.

For quick reference, the collège is close to, in American terms, junior high and early high school, while the lycée is late high school, taught, at least in literature and the arts, at what in American terms is “university level.”  The lycée has a “literary” track that only a small number of students pursue; it is definitely at university level.

I am repeating some things I wrote a year ago (beginning here), when I looked back on my time in France and discussed how I learned and read French.  I am sure I will repeat a lot more as I write.  I will repeat that I have two reasons for tying what I am reading to the French school system: first, that the reading level of books is so clearly indicated – how helpful!, and second, that the literary and arts education is fundamentally historical, taught to at least some degree for its own sake, rather than instrumental, taught as a means to teach more important things like writing and spelling and comportment, as we do in the U.S.

The humanities are inherently historical.  Every subject becomes a humanity once it is historicized.  And anyways I always think of literature historically, so I am going to move through my French reading while moving through French literary history.  It is a way to look at what I have read, but also what I might read someday.  It is a fun way to play with books.

I guess I have gone on so long about my methodology, a more German than French way to start, that I will save the French Middle Ages until tomorrow.  Setting aside all of this throat-clearing, things should move quickly.


  1. The title alone, of this post, intrigues me and makes me smile, and then you carry on with the “opportunity” to correct your errors, something I would never endeavor to do. I look forward to reading what you have to say about French literature, for I, too, am quite fond of it, and I, too, poorly remember the language in which I was once almost fluent. (My fondest memory in Paris? Being asked by the policeman from which country I came. Imagine him not knowing I was American! I took it as a great compliment to my command of the language and accent. I think he was simply impressed I tried my best to speak his.)

    I complete French V in High School, beginning with French II as I had a bit of the language from our summers there in my youth. We read Candide, and analyzed it, in French, as well as Le Petit Prince. I even had a New Testament in French; it was so wonderful to read my favorite book in another language and get even more layers of meaning from it.

  2. I hope so. It's interesting to me; we'll see where that goes.

    A Parisian, not knowing where you are from, that is impressive. They are arguably a little too concerned with accents. From "bonjour," they know where I am from, and they switch to English.

    I hope you have the chance to return to France soon. It is still nice.

  3. "This is a good idea because it offers ample outstanding opportunities for people to correct my errors, which, I have observed, makes people happy. It is a kind of public service."

    I feel better knowing I've made many people happy. Many, many people. Thank you for the lift to my day. Looking forward to the series!

  4. Right? People love that. I assume many journalists on Twitter make their most unbelievable errors in this generous spirit, because people so enjoy pounding on them.

  5. I'm looking forward tp reading these posts.

    I think that the school editions are terrible, they scream "Look at me, I'm homework" instead of focusing on the pleasure of reading.

    You think that literature classes in lycee are university level? I didn't expect that.

    You'll be happy to know that literature and philosophy remained mandatory classes in the new baccalauréat. Math is optional in 1ere now and it's a revolution.

  6. The better school editions seem like they are written for me, for the adult enthusiast who is trying to learn more about the work. But I can skip the homework. Those poor students!

    Going by what is in the school editions, the level of difficulty is like what happens in the first year or two of most American universities. It is impressive.

  7. They seem written for teachers. I don't understand why they don't sell this separately to teachers.
    You should have seen my son's relief when he realized that his edition of Thérèse Raquin includes 40 pages of literary dossier and that the actual book is not that long.

  8. I first thought the material was for teachers. I guess sometimes it is for teachers.