The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


The French language and literature have been taught in the College since at least 1848. By 1940, the regular French staff numbered 16 persons who offered a total of 118 classes during the academic year. Since that time, the number of full-time teachers has not varied as greatly as one might expect, because the increasing need for instruction was in large part being met at the level of basic and intermediate language teaching by the employment of a greater number of Teaching Fellows. The peak of student enrollment in French was in 1965 when 305 classes were taught.

The French section offers instruction in the use of French at all levels, in the methods of teaching French, in French civilization and history, and in French literature of all periods. The methods used have followed the development of new approaches in applied linguistics and pedagogy, but the objectives have remained the same.

From the early years of this century, training in the active use of correct French had been provided both in courses and through extracurricular activities. The production of an annual French play performed by students began in 1907 and continued uninterruptedly, except in wartime, for some fifty years.

The range of extracurricular activities in support of language learning in the department has slowly declined over the last few decades. In 1940, the French section had a very active Cercle Francais supported both by town and gown. It met twice monthly, sponsored and usually staffed the annual play (frequently underwriting the publication of a special edition), and organized an annual series of French lectures given by members of the faculty and distinguished guest speakers. Until the late fifties, there was an attractive Maison Francaise during the Summer Session, located in Page  216one of the large sorority houses, with a resident French directress. The French House which now exists in University housing during the regular year serves a similar purpose but for a smaller and different clientele. On the other hand, courses such as those on French film offered by Professor Roy J. Nelson and the easy access to numerous French films on campus every year now offer a source of practice and enrichment which for many years was nowhere available.

The most significant recent addition to the undergraduate program in French is undoubtedly the provision of opportunities for supervised study abroad. In 1962 a Junior Year Abroad, run jointly by the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin, was set up at Aix-en-Provence. Every year, 25 students from each university spend an entire academic year enrolled regularly in the Universite de Provence, earning a full academic year's credit in their home university. The two universities alternate in providing a French faculty member to be the Resident Director. In the summer of 1974, a program of intensive study of French at the elementary and intermediate levels was established at La Rochelle. Under the direction of French staff from this department, students do a semester's or a year's work for regular university credit. Some are able to complete the College foreign-language requirement during this intensive seven-week session.

The overall picture of graduate studies in French during these thirty-five years is rather different from that of the undergraduate experience. In the thirties, the department had made an active effort to develop a graduate program equal to that of other major universities, and the French section profited from it immediately.

The French section also offered three special graduate programs. Mention has been made of the FLES programs, which included a section for French, in the Summer Sessions from 1955 to 1961. Between 1952 and 1956, a special six-week program for teachers of high-school French and Spanish was organized under the direction of Professor Benjamin Bart, then supervisor of basic instruction in French. Under the National Defense Education Act, a series of Institutes was organized and directed by Professor Jean Carduner. Four of these NDEA French Institutes were offered, the first two in Ann Arbor Page  217in 1966 and 1967, the second two in France, at Sevres and Cahors in 1968 and 1969. These Institutes were created for a special clientele — teachers of advanced high school courses in French literature and civilization, or supervisors of such programs. Some 150 students took advantage of this opportunity to upgrade their professional skills.

Between 1848 and 1940, the department had awarded 110 master's degrees in French and 14 Ph.D.s in Romance Languages and Literatures, with French as the major field. Between 1940 and 1975, 341 master's degrees in French and 84 Ph.D.s in "Romance Languages and Literatures: French" were granted.