Objectifs & attentes


This course aims to provide you with:

  • several sorts of reading skill: including fast reading and a very slow, careful, attentive, meticulous close-reading that incorporates rereading
  • some basic but fundamental research skills: the collection and sorting of data, prior to its analysis and use; from/within our texts
  • the development, enhancement, and honing of thinking skills
  • vocabulary and techniques for the analysis and criticism of literary texts
  • adeptness at the craft of writing: from short pithy paragraphs to long essays; constructing sound arguments; using textual evidence and good reasoning; with an emphasis on commentary, analysis, and critique: the “close writing” that parallels close reading
  • (main objective) competence in writing commentaries–L’ANALYSE DE TEXTE, LE COMMENTAIRE–and essays–LA DISSERTATION LITTÉRAIRE

and a sense of literary texts in context:

  • foundational knowledge about the Modern Francophone world:
  • principally its literature;
  • supplemented by the broad lines of its cultural and historical background;
  • and the wider backdrop: world literature, continuing and contemporary literary issues

It/I also hope(s) to provide you with, as a bonus,

  • a love for learning
  • some enjoyment and pleasure
  • an awareness of literature’s potential as an infinite resource of comfort and consolation


What you should expect from this course:

  • a classic but somewhat more interactive lecture format
  • discussion, work in groups and individually, intensive writing in a workshop style
  • reading
  • rereading shorter passages
  • to think while reading, and to make notes
  • writing, every week: most of this will be short, and it is intended to be non-traumatic but intensive
  • an increase in the quality of your writing
  • to separate out and handle responsibly and competently: facts, arguments, aesthetic judgments, value-judgments; as distinct from opinions and fuzzier feelings
  • to learn: through a combination of lectures, discussion with peers, and your own independent initiative
  • to learn to enjoy and maybe even love learning, through pre-modern and early modern French literature’s love of learning and play with it: this is a major step towards becoming a philologist and/or philosopher
  • to have–it is seriously and strongly hoped–some fun


(In proper 18th-century style.)

You will be expected to:

  • attend class: regular attendance is expected of all students. Unexcused absences and late arrivals will drastically affect your final grade
  • do so in an attentive manner
  • participate and contribute: this contributes to part of your final grade
  • prepare for class: have the requisite texts, and have read (and in most cases reread) them in advance
  • be courteous, respectful, and tolerant of other students
  • think
  • ask questions
  • complete the required assignments in a timely manner, and do so without cheating or other low, disreputable, underhand, unethical, or illegal means; late work will be penalized, and will not be accepted once it is a week late (unless covered by medical or other acceptable official certification)
  • check your email frequently, and check this site regularly; and keep your email contact information up to date with UBC IT
  • communicate in a timely fashion with O’Brien if you are absent, ill, suffer a mishap, and/or–especially–if this will impact on the due handing in of work or sitting of examinations (midterm, final project, final exam).
    NB: PLEASE INCLUDE THE COURSE NUMBER (FREN 221-204) IN YOUR EMAIL SUBJECT LINE (otherwise your email will go into a general inbox and be read later; it may even land and malinger in spam)
  • bear in mind that there are some times when O’Brien will not be accessible and available: she has to rest–the better to work with you. She will read email Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (unless teaching, in office hours, or marking) and will respond to your emails within 24 hours during the week.
  • try very hard to have a generally positive and sunny outlook, and to be of a cheerful disposition

O’Brien promises to:

  • attend, participate, be prepared
  • be courteous, respectful, and tolerant; but also fair, patient, non-judgmental, encouraging, kind, and sympathetic
  • comment on, mark, grade, and return your work in a timely manner; this should include useful and constructive comments
  • make time to go through corrected work with students, in office hours or by appointment
  • hold weekly office hours
  • be open to questions and requests for further explanations
  • listen
  • communicate with you in a timely fashion on any matters pertaining to the course
  • reply to emails efficiently and promptly, within 24 hours during the week (other than when assessments are due, and during the examination period, when email-checking hours will be extended)
  • try very hard to have a generally positive and sunny outlook, and to be of a cheerful disposition


  • Grading Guidelines for Content-Based Courses (Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies, UBC)
  • Critical analysis: grading criteria (O’Brien)
  • As this is a literature/culture course, most of your grade is for
    • content (your own idea and interpretation) and
    • structure (good choice of examples, relevance, an intelligent reading, well-reasoned, solid argument, acceptable conclusions with regard to all of the above).
  • Style, syntax, grammar, and spelling will contribute to the grade, insofar as they contribute to the communication of content and structure: bear in mind that this is an exercise in EXPLANATION which will be assisted by clear EXPRESSION.
  • While some critics, theorists, etc. may make occasional passing appearances in our course: note that this course’s focus is on primary texts and YOUR close reading of them. There will never be a pop quiz, vocabulary test, or “who’s who” multiple-choice exercise on this sort of thing (which is a good thing, but just not our present business).
  • Please don’t cheat. It’s not good, it’s not nice, and it’s no fun for anyone.
  • Proper citation is of course permitted, and a different beast from plagiarism. Do consult University policies further on this point; if in doubt, contact your professor and discuss.
  • See even further still: NBBB optional… to see matters from the other side, for examples of what not to do, and out of sheer mischief:


Plagiarism robs you of what you think and what you can learn. Avoid it. Please be reminded that your education includes academic integrity. Unattributed use of someone’s else work (book, journal article, newspaper clip, online material, etc) and other demonstrated incidences of plagiarism will result in penalties ranging from an F course grade to expulsion from the university when the incident is reported to the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Discipline.

This is a part of your formal relationship with the University. See further:


Assessed work (“le portfolio d’écriture”) is due in week 13. It may be handed in to me in class on Tuesday the 2nd of April, or emailed by midnight that night. 
It should have your NAME on it. 
I don’t need your student number, and would prefer to think of you as a named person rather than a number anyway. See “Notation & Travaux > Critères” for further details on form, format, how to hand it in, etc.

Late work WILL BE penalized:

  • -20% for the 1st day or part thereof, counting from when I open my email the morning after your homework is due in. Warning: I usually get up early!
  • plus another -10% per day thereafter
  • so: -20% if it’s 1 day late, -30% for 2 days late, -40% for 3 days late, etc.
  • no work will be accepted after 1 week


  • subject to negotiation, and not guaranteed or to be taken for granted
  • only if asked for in advance, in writing (i.e. email me), and with supporting documentation (following University guidelines on what counts). Except for exceptional circumstances such as accidents, of course!

The midterm and final examinations:

  • a make-up version can be arranged: this will be a different test (or exam, etc.) from the one sat by the rest of the class
  • ONLY by arrangement, and with supporting documentation

What counts:

These rights, rules, and responsibilities are in addition to, not instead of, all policies and guidelines as supplied by the University, Faculty of Arts, and Department of FHIS. Some rules may change along the way; this should always be for good reason and be done in a reasonable way.


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