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French 3501

An Introduction to Drama in French

This course is an invitation to study a wonderfully-varied art form, a source of pleasure, thought and emotion which has accompanied human existence for centuries. Since the dawn of humanity? Yes, we may surmise that as long as our species has existed, it has viewed drama as indispensable to life, as a human need. Drama has constantly shown and told us our reality, our dreams, our nightmares, our hopes. In prehistoric times, drama probably existed, and we may guess some of its functions: religious, for example (to guarantee a successful hunting expedition or battle, or the fertility of people and fields...) Later, written drama allows us to more clearly identify its functions and forms. Diverse, important sub-genres appeared, helping people to express reality, dreams, nightmares and hopes: tragedy, comedy, le drame... Today, the forms and functions of drama display unfettered variety and freedom.

So much the better, for drama is fundamentally characterised by the free variety of its languages, its means of expression, its systems of signs (semiotic systems), just as drama fundamentally characterises the human species. We sometimes forget about this variety when we study plays in book form. The book may make us view drama as being simply a sort of literature, like poetry or the novel. True enough, written drama is literature, but also... much more. Drama is almost always written to be PLAYED, SHOWN, on stage, and the stage itself, nowadays, may take any of many shapes. Therefore, drama implies the presence of real human beings who PLAY "MAKE-BELIEVE", who PRETEND they are living a life different from their real, everyday lives.

Text, actresses and actors... but drama also uses several other means of expression and communication: the language of words and actions (for the actresses and actors speak and act); settings (palace or kitchen or forest or bedroom...); the objects in the decor (what is that fridge in the kitchen like? Brand-new or old and dirty?); costumes, sounds; music; dance; stage lighting. All these components enable the play to communicate, and allow the spectators, during their encounter with the play, to create meaning, their meaning, the meaning of the play for each of them.

French 3501 is thus an invitation to both study and pleasure. The study of this abundance, this extraordinary diversity of languages and meanings offered by a great, ancient and living art: drama, which allows us to see more clearly the realities and potential, past and future, of our human condition.


15 credit hours in French at the 2000 level or permission of the Head of the Department.


Various plays or portions of plays drawn from the drama of the French-speaking world, especially that of France and Canada.


At the discretion of the instructor who may ask students to participate in this decision-making process. Almost always, the evaluation system attaches considerable weight to individual essays and small group oral presentations.


Approximately every second year.

After 3501

Since 3501 involves students in developing both their oral and written French skills, this course is excellent preparation for numerous other courses at the 3rd/4th-year and M.A. levels.Two courses from 3500, 3501, 3502, 3503 or 3504 are the prerequisites for 4000-level literature courses.