Saint Michael's French

French language and culture have a unique place in the heart and history of Saint Michael's, a college founded by scholar-priests from France more than a century ago. We're a short drive from French-speaking Quebec and the vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Montreal, so you'll gain fluency not only from your classes, which emphasize conversation, proper grammar, literature and culture, but also from visiting Montreal theaters and museums, socializing with international students, studying abroad in Paris or hosting a French-themed campus radio show. First you'll take a language placement exam to put you at the right starting-point. Then you either can explore French for the first time or deepen an existing familiarity with French/Francophone (French-speaking) culture. Film, literature, music, food and customs of France, the Caribbean, Africa and Canada all are in the mix for students in this major.

French Brochure 

First-year French courses improve your basic language skills and introduce you to the cultures of the French-speaking world while you concurrently build proficiency through applied language components of courses taught in English. This allows you to read and discuss, in French, selected texts and materials pertinent to the subject matter of  courses outside the department in a wide variety of disciplines by meeting one extra hour a week with instructors to discuss the texts in French.

Subsequent courses offer further development of intermediate language skills in all areas, usually in the context of French and Francophone cultures. Advanced conversation courses at the 300 level really prepare you to live and get along in a French-speaking society on a practical daily basis. Advanced grammar and composition assures that you develop writing skills and consolidate your grammar and vocabulary abilities.

Some of your classes will explore the culture of France: Paris as a center of French culture, medieval France, the Enlightenment, or women in France. You might study literature at a more advanced level covering different genres and styles and the principal literary movements and authors of French and Francophone literature, or take a course on the great cinematic tradition of French and French-speaking countries, viewing at least a film a week

Electives also explore cultures of French-speaking countries and regions outside France (Québec, Africa, the Caribbean, New England, etc.). Topics could be the culture of Québec; Haitian culture through its art; sub-Saharan Francophone literature; New England’s Franco-Americans; or the oral tradition in Francophone culture.

Advanced literature studies might look at a single author, work or movement, or be of a topical nature: for example, Medieval Literature or the Nineteenth Century Novel.

In the capstone course for majors, you'll use the skills and knowledge gained over the course of your studies on campus and abroad to produce a substantial academic essay written in the language of the major.

Beyond all these possibilities, the Department of Modern Languages also offers other courses taught in English. Study Quebec or Italian Cinema; read Russian Literature or delve into Russian Culture and History; "Topics" courses offer essentially unlimited possibilities. One of the best parts of majoring in Modern Languages is just how personalized your course of study can be, and under close and attentive mentorship.

Sample Four Year Plan for French Majors*

First Year
Fall Spring
FR 203 Third Semester French  FR 206 Fourth Semester French 
First Year Seminar Liberal Studies courses
Liberal Studies courses
Fall Spring
FR 308 Advanced Conversation FR 343 Literary Studies in French
FR 310  Advanced Communication & Culture Liberal Studies courses
Liberal Studies courses
Fall Spring
Study abroad in French French electives
Junior Seminar
Fall Spring
FR 460 French Senior Seminar French electives 
Electives Electives

A student placed into either FR 101 or FR 102 may major in the language, too; this would mean more coursework in the corresponding language of study, some of which may be completed abroad.

French majors are strongly encouraged to study abroad in a French-speaking country.  A semester abroad can fulfill the Advanced Conversation requirement.

* For students who enroll in the fall of 2018.

Laurence Clerfeuille, PhD

Associate Professor of Classical and Modern Languages and Literature: French

Contact Professor Clerfeuille

Klein Hall 108
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Ph.D. University of Southern California
M.A. University of Southern California
M.A. Tulane University
Maitrise in English, Université Michel de Montaigne, Bordeaux, France

Areas of Expertise:

French language, Haitian Literature, Caribbean Literature from Martinique and Guadeloupe, Francophone Literatures and Cultures, Immigration, Beur, North and West African Literatures, 19th and 20th Century French Literature, French History, Civilization and Politics, Women Writers

Courses I Teach:

  • French language
  • Voices of Resistance
  • French grammar and composition

Kristin Juel, PhD

Associate Professor of Classical and Modern Languages and Literature: French

Contact Professor Juel

Klein Hall 111
Box 382
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M.A., Ph.D. Indiana University
B.A. St. Olaf College

Area of Expertise:

Medieval French literature

Courses I Teach:

  • Grammar and Composition (FR308)
  • First, Second, and Third Semester French (FR101, FR102, FR203)
  • French Film (FR430)
  • French Poetry (FR445)
  • French Theater (FR425)
  • Medieval French Culture (FR 315)
  • Senior Seminar (FR460)

My Saint Michael's:

I chose to teach at a small private college because I enjoy teaching a little of everything. I love to see the progress of language students as much as I love watching students come to appreciate the literature.

The Saint Michael’s environment is a very caring one, one that will facilitate your intellectual, spiritual and personal growth. I appreciate the diversity of the student body and the faculty and the energy that they bring to the institution.

Saint Michael’s students seem to have a real curiosity about, and respect for, other people and their cultures. I love giving oral exams at the end of FR101 and FR102. While it’s probably the aspect of the course that students fear the most, it’s incredibly satisfying to see how much they can actually communicate after just one or two semesters.

Peter Vantine, PhD

Director, First-Year Seminar Program; Chair and Associate Professor of Classical and Modern Languages and Literature: French

Contact Professor Vantine

Klein Hall 114
Box 227
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M.A., Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison
DEA Université de Genève (Switzerland)
B.A. Amherst College

I joined Saint Michael's College in the Fall 2011 semester.  I have taught at The University of Saint Thomas (MN), Macalester College (MN), and Indiana University.  I have lived in Paris and Dijon, France, as well as in Geneva, Switzerland.  Among other scholarly projects, I am working on a book tentatively titled Entre fantaisie et réalisme: texte, contexte et métatexte dans les premiers romans et les nouvelles des frères Goncourt (Between Fantasy and Realism: Text, Context, and Metatext in the Early Novels and Stories of the Goncourt Brothers).

Areas of Expertise:

Nineteenth-century French literature (poetry, theater, novels) and culture, particularly print and visual culture.

Courses I Teach:

  • First-Year Seminar: The Examined Life
  • First, Second, Third, and Fourth Semester French (Beginning and Intermediate French)
  • Advanced Conversation
  • Advanced Grammar and Composition
  • Topics in French Culture: French Humor; Paris – City of Shadow, City of Light
  • Topics in French Literature: The French Novel; The Nineteenth-Century French Novel



Having myself chosen to attend a small liberal-arts college as an undergraduate, I believe deeply in the value of a closely-knit academic community in which professors are wholly engaged in the life of the college, and in which learning thrives within and beyond the walls of the classroom. In addition to helping students acquire concrete language skills and analytical abilities at all course levels, I strive to share my enthusiasm for and insights about French language, culture, and literature. 

While my research on nineteenth-century French literature always informs my courses on that particular historical period, more generally my scholarly endeavors feed my own intellectual curiosity, passion, and critical judgment, which I then hope to inspire in my students. Futhermore, I attempt to remain up to date with work on foreign language acquistion and pedagogy, while also sharing my own experiences with colleagues both informally and at conferences.  I believe that excellent teaching is always a work in progress, a constant process of renewing, reworking, and refining one's practices.  Students, in turn, are not only the targets of such efforts but are also sources of invaluable feedback about how to improve them.

  • International Relations (policy analysis, foreign service, diplomacy)
  • International Development (NGO, U.S. State Department, or private sector)
  • International Business, Law, or Journalism
  • Global Public Health
  • Community Health Services
  • Refugee Advocacy and Resettlement Services
  • Immigration Services
  • Library Science
  • Translating and Interpreting
  • Teaching French in the U.S. or at an international school
  • Teaching English in France
  • Peace Corps or Jesuit Volunteer Corps
  • Travel and Tourism Industries
  • Graduate Studies in French literature, linguistics, or second-language acquisition

For more information about career paths and internship opportunities, visit the Careers + Internships page

Study Abroad

The hard part might be deciding which study-abroad experience in a French-speaking culture will best suit your personal interests. One in three Saint Michael's students in general spends a semester or year abroad. As you might guess, the figure is much higher for Modern Languages students. Visit our Study Abroad Europe Page for a full list of the College's Study Abroad locations.

Study Abroad Politi Scholarships

A limited number of scholarships are available to support study in countries and programs that the College believes offer optimum learning opportunities. The scholarships are made possible through the Dr. A. Francis Politi International Fund.

Applications for study abroad programs emphasizing experiential learning opportunities (field based research, internships, student teaching, and service learning) or study in a language that is not the student's primary language will be given priority. Grants will range from $1,000 - $1,800. An academic year student can apply for a maximum of $2,000. The scholarships will be applied to the student's accounts.


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