Tara Collington primarily teaches courses in 20th- and 21st-century French literature. In her classes, she encourages students to explore questions of generic hybridity by examining issues such as: the interaction of different sub-genres in the novel; how fiction incorporates historical events; or the inclusion of photographs in a literary text. She also regularly teaches FR297 French Culture & Literature: 1715 to the Present and recently prepared the online version of this course. As a native English-speaker who came up through the core French system in Ontario, she fully appreciates both the challenges and rewards of studying French as a second language. In her third-year Introduction to Translation course, she works with students on identifying and implementing various strategies for French/English translation; this course incorporates daily group activities translating a variety of different types of texts, from newspaper articles, to advertising slogans, to excerpts of literary texts.
“Mind is highly inflammable” (Rodolphe de Koninck). My best memories from my own undergraduate and graduate studies are when a professor was so passionate about his/her material that the course was not about filling our heads, but setting our minds “on fire”, thus giving the impulse that would lead us to work insanely hard and give the best we could. I have decided to become a university professor in order to give back what I had received. That being said, I consider myself as an eternal student and am totally dedicated to the ones I have the privilege to meet in my courses. In my language classes, I present the grammar rules in (hopefully!) a very clear and systematic way, and I encourage my students to participate as much as possible, without being afraid of making mistakes — an essential part of the learning process and…well…life. Songs, short videos and a lot of humor make those classes more enjoyable. When comes the time to teach literature, I introduce my students not only to the texts, but also to a period of time, and invite them to see through the writer’s eyes, to discover, with a lot of excitement, how an eighteenth-century writer would understand the world, the human beings, their thoughts, feelings, and actions…. Being a professor in French Studies means far more to me than presenting material. It is connecting with ourselves and the others, throughout the ages, spaces, and cultures. Welcome in my courses !
I am teaching courses in 20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone literature (Francophone African Literature, Women’s Writing, French Culture amongst others). I bring to the classroom a combination of lecture, visual components, classroom interactions, oral presentations and applications of concepts learned in class to real world situations. I am most interested in engaging students in a learning process that develops their personal abilities and promotes effective classroom participation. I also try, as much as I can, to incorporate various active and creative learning techniques in my literature and language classes: poster projects to increased learning, creativity, collaboration and satisfaction amongst students (FR486), creation of poems to foster self-expression in French, and writing a letter from a 19th century character’s eyes (FR297). My literature courses expose the students to a variety of literary forms and genres to encourage critical thinking and analysis as well as emotional responses. All this can be transposed to their real lives.
Nicolas Gauthier specializes in 19th-century French literature, studying major authors and forgotten ones, with a specific focus on popular culture. In his third-year literature class, he offers a portrait of how our current cultural environment has been shaped by the development of mass culture in the 19th century. Among the other courses he enjoys teaching is an advanced grammar class (FR452) designed for students who are usually at the end of their B.A. They participate in selecting the topics to be reviewed or explored in depth, and students become more confident with grammar through engaging in a wide range of activities such as proofreading of literary and non-literary texts, and creative writing. The goal is to become so comfortable with a variety of advanced grammatical rules that students can use them efficiently in any given context.
I believe that teaching and learning are reciprocal, which is why I value discussions in small groups or as a whole class. I like to challenge my students and myself by creating varied and innovative forms of evaluations that assess not only an understanding of the content and critical thinking, but also creativity – a very much needed quality in a rapidly changing and knowledge-based society. I encourage my students to reflect upon real world examples or questions that are particularly dear to them as individuals.
Whether teaching topics in grammar, literature or culture, I strive to highlight the many connections between the object being studied and students’ lives. Rather than explaining language as a system of abstract signs, for instance, I present it as one of many tools that help us express ourselves and understand others. It is therefore essential that students have ample opportunity to talk and write about their interests and ideas – in French, of course. Similarly, when teaching topics in culture or literature, I favour activities that solicit students’ personal reactions to a particular work: a short story by Flaubert, a volume of Asterix’s adventures, a song by Charlebois and so on. Through this approach, I hope to bring my students to a better understanding of the French language, of francophone cultures and hopefully of their own, personal experience.
My training in pre-1800 French literature helped me reflect, among other things, on how students were taught in the Early Modern period. If we put aside the burdens encountered by college students in early 16th-Century Paris (fleas, diseases, and worse!), Rabelais and Montaigne, to name only these two humanists, had interesting perspectives on education we unfortunately forgot. I would only quote a passage from one of Montaigne’s Essays to make my point:
“I would also urge that care be taken to choose a guide (instructor) with a well-made rather than a well-filled head; that both these qualities should be required of him, but more particularly character and understanding than learning; and that he should go about his job in a novel way” (Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays, I: 26, D. M. Frame, ed. & transl.)
In my class, I strive to place the emphasis on meaningful, authentic activities and collaboration. I see the classroom as a community in which learning is optimized through a shared sense of responsibility and participants benefit from interacting not only with the teacher but also with their peers. My approach is also one in which culture and language are intertwined, where students gain knowledge not only of the language studied but also of the culture it is part of. In my view, language is a social interaction and cannot be separated from the context in which it is conveyed.