Tag: French literature

More Summer conferences and publications!

As promised, more updates here on what French at Stirling colleagues have been up to since teaching ended in the Spring. And this time, it’s a chance to catch up with what Emeline Morin, Lecturer in French, has been doing, starting with a paper entitled ‘(Un)veiling the sordid: metamorphosis in Marie Darrieussecq’s and Marcela Iacub’s Pig Tales’ that Emeline gave at the University of Glasgow back in May, part of their ‘Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations. Mapping the Mythosphere.’

In June, Emeline was then at the University of Southampton for a one-day conference organised by the ‘South, West, and Wales Gender Cluster.’ The conference was called ‘Marginalised Networks: Locating Queer and Gendered (Trans)national Connections’ and Emeline’s paper was called ‘Bridegroom tales and forced marriages: Francophone and Anglophone feminist fairy tales through time.’ And in August, Emeline went to Durham University for the ‘Consent: Histories, Representations, and Frameworks for the Future’ conference where she gave a paper entitled ‘Sexuality, Marriage, and Consent in Fairy Tales: the Value of Rewriting Stories’ that examined issues of consent in tales such as ‘The Sleeping Beauty’.

Finally, on the conference front, just last week (and evidence of the many and varied directions French and Francophone Studies can take you in!) Emeline spoke at the Royal Geography Society-IBG Annual International Conference in London, co-delivering a paper that she’d co-written with her friend and colleague Dr. Rachel Hunt (a lecturer in geo-humanities at Edinburgh Uni). The paper was called ‘The Bothy: a Scottish mythopoeia,’ and they discussed how cultural myths around Scotland impact real landscape and places such as bothies.

2019 Sept Emeline fairy-tale-vanguard_300And alongside all these conference papers, Emeline has also had a chapter published in Stijn Praet and Anna Kérchy’s edited collection The Fairy-Tale Vanguard: The Literary Self-Consciousness of a Marvelous Genre, entitled ‘Cartesian Wit and American Fantasy: A Comparative Study of Eric Chevillard’s The Brave Little Tailor (2003) and Robert Coover’s Briar Rose (1996).’

A very productive few months indeed!

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Languages: ‘A vital part of who I am!’

As regular blog readers will recall, the BBC published an article a few weeks back that focused on a decline in language learning in UK schools which prompted us here on the blog to post a series of articles by and about our staff and students, and their experiences of language learning. Those conversations have been continuing over the intervening few weeks and I’m delighted to get a chance to post another series of thoughts on the joys and challenges of language learning, this time by Stefano:

2018 Intropido Pic I‘I am really glad to have this opportunity to write again on this topic here on the French at Stirling Blog, as I cannot recommend studying languages enough! In fact, if it wasn’t for languages, I wouldn’t even be able to write this post at all; but… is it really all about articles and academia? No, there is so much more to it!

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to be in a school, back in Italy, where I could already start learning some bits of English from a very early age (I think I was 4 when the teachers started organising some playful and funny activities so that we could learn nursery rhymes and games in English). Although I am not too confident now with my knowledge on kids’ songs, I am sure that this joyful approach made me keep going with English in primary school, where I also started some extra-curricular English courses to engage more and more with this beautiful language. My ongoing passion for the subject then pushed me to carry on with English all throughout my schooling years, right until the very end of high school, where I found myself to be a bit of “anglophile”; as Emeline mentioned earlier, even just the chance to read books and watch movies in their original language uncovered a whole new world of possibilities (and yes, the new Harry Potter books did play a crucial motivational role in this, I must say).

After so many years of learning and practising English in Italy I’d say I never got bored of it, but I started feeling the curiosity for going to English-speaking countries to put the theory into practice; I liked English so much that I ended up working as a Group Leader for younger Italian pupils abroad during their summer camps in the UK and those travelling experiences made me realise how far even a young student could go just thanks to a foreign language! And when it was then time to apply for universities, moving to Scotland simply seemed to me like the best choice to carry on along this path.

A bit of a warning here: studying a foreign language might be contagious…

Not only does it make you connect with (and be inspired by) so many new people, but once you start learning something as eye-opening as a foreign language, it is really hard to stop!

In my case, the “language-bug” made me study French, starting when I was 11. It could have been something temporary, as in Italy you are only required to pick up a “second” European language (usually French or Spanish or German) between the age of 11 and 14. However, once again, I became ‘too’ fascinated by this new wonderful language and I stuck with French all way throughout my 5 years in high school in Italy and (spoiler alert!) even at university level here in Scotland.

When I arrived here I realised how differently you can learn French in these two countries; whilst in Italy a much greater focus is on France’s history and literature (I have lost count of the classic French novels and plays we had to study in school…), here in Scotland attention is mostly put on language skills, as well as postcolonial and contemporary studies, which makes the two countries’ approaches perfectly complementary!

Looking back, I still struggle to believe how far I have come just thanks to French and the number of experiences I have gained through it. Some examples include: school trips and holiday in France (yeah I know, this might sound obvious, but as soon as you learn how to order French food it is really hard to resist!), an unforgettable Summer School in Strasbourg, an even more memorable Semester Abroad in Paris, a research scholarship to travel across the South of France2018 Intropido Pic I and many more.

As I have been travelling around Europe, people have often asked me if I am now a “trilingual” student. I am finally happy to say, a bit more confidently, that I am now fluent in three languages (although my parents make fun of my now broken Italian sometimes, but that’s another story), but especially I am really happy and grateful for all the places I have seen and the people I have met along my journey thanks to these languages.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, this “language-bug” thing is not getting any better… I should indeed mention, perhaps, that I also studied Latin for eight years in school and, guess what, I simply loved it! Call me boring, but I had so much fun with Latin as well that I managed to be selected for a national competition in the North East of Italy; no, I didn’t win, but yes, I had a great time, everything was included for the journey and I managed to meet some other great people even in that occasion. Therefore, let me just go against a well-established stereotype on “dead languages”: not only do they help you learn modern ones, but they take you around more than what you would think!

To conclude, I do believe that languages are not just subjects, but rather constitute a vital part of who I am; they represent wonderful key to access our world! And if you think you have got a “language-bug” yourself, don’t worry, it can only get “worse” 😉

Now I really have to go though, I have just seen a flyer about a Spanish course…’

Many, many thanks (merci, grazie, thank you!!) to Stefano for this brilliant post and for the infectious enthusiasm for languages.

French at Stirling: What happened next…

And following on from Evelyn’s post about Semester Abroad in Aix, another great article by Claudia who graduated in 2012 with a BA Hons in French (the same programme as Evelyn is doing, coincidentally…):

‘I think it must be a couple of years since I was last asked to contribute and let you all know about what happens when you graduate!

I have now taken a bit of a side step from French and I am a trainee legal executive at a law firm in sunny Dorset. My days are now filled with compliance, mortgages and completions instead of language, translation and reading but the skill set I learned at Stirling is transferred daily. For example, learning to translate French literature means I can now read leases and find the key passages with ease. Whilst I did not naturally find presentations and talking in front of the class easy, I can now confidently give advice to clients and speak up in meetings and at networking events.

With the rise of social media, Facebook kindly reminded me recently that it has been 10 years since I started my degree (September 2008) and 8 years since my student placement at Limoges University (January to May 2011). Whilst it may be a while since I graduated, it sure has gone by quickly and the University prepares you well for the world of work. I can’t believe I used to whinge at a 9am start- now that feels like a lie in!

Whilst I may not use French on a day-to-day basis the skills you learn are invaluable and you won’t even realise you are doing it. Legal work is challenging and long-distance learning is tough but the studying I did at Stirling has made me focused in my future career and when I feel I can’t do something I remind myself of all those nights that I wanted to give up and go home. I’m so glad I didn’t and there is no doubt in my mind that Cristina and Aedin kept me at university.

I’m hoping to go back to France soon and explore more of the beautiful cities that France has to offer; the world is bigger than the Pathfoot building, though it may feel as thought that is your world for 4 years. Hopefully the next time I get to write a post I might be a little closer to qualification. Keep an open mind- you never know where French will take you!’

Many, many thanks to Claudia for sending us this fantastic update and we look forward to following your progress in your legal career over the years ahead! And particular thanks from Cristina and Aedin – we’re delighted you stayed!!

Study Abroad: ‘Just do it!’

One last blog post for the moment and this time it’s one from Sofie, who is about to enter the final year of her BA Hons in French and Journalism, and has just spent her Semester Abroad at the University of Tours:

‘Studying in another country can be a daunting experience and it makes most people nervous but these feelings change to excitement once you’re in your country of exchange. You’ll meet a lot of different people from different countries and make a lot of new friends so there’s really nothing to be afraid of. I speak of my own experience of going abroad twice and I’ve had the most amazing adventures both times of which one is still ongoing. I first went abroad when I moved to Scotland to study as a full-time student in 2015 and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice of country. My second time was quite recently when I studied one semester abroad in France as an exchange student and it went better than I expected, again.

2018 Sofie Karlsson old town ToursI went to Tours in France where I studied literature at Université François Rabelais. I knew I wanted to be close to Paris but I also wanted to live in a smaller city so Tours was perfect for me and it’s only 1 hour away from Paris by TGV. Tours also reminded me a lot of Stirling with its blend of old and new so it was easy to feel at home. It was also very easy to find friends thanks to the ESN community for exchange students. This did mean all students who joined were students from other countries except for France so it wasn’t as easy to befriend French students but ESN arranged many fun events where we got to learn a lot about French culture and food. They also organised trips almost every weekend to visit places like Saint Malo and Saint Michel but also amusement parks like ZooParc de Beauval and Parc du Futuroscope and of course many castles since Tours is located in Val-de-Loire which is famous for its beautiful castles. The trips weren’t expensive either so we saved a lot of money traveling France this way and everything was arranged for us which was really helpful. We just payed and tagged along.

2018 Sofie Karlsson Saint-Malo

Studying at a French university was interesting and a bit difficult since it was all in French but if I could manage to do it, then anyone can do it, trust me! I missed studying at university of Stirling a little bit though because I know how things work there but everything made more sense with time. I chose to study five courses which were comparative literature, French literature, two French language courses (CUEFEE) and translation from French to English. It was a challenge but I learned a lot of French and it was a fun way to learn the language. Studying wasn’t the most fun thing out of the experience though, for me, it was to meet so many amazing people from all over the world. I made friends from USA, Canada and other various countries in Europe and it’s nice to know I’ll always have connections there. There were also opportunities to meet locals who were interested in other cultures but I had to look for these places myself. In Tours, there’s a nice café/restaurant called NewLita aka “the language café”. I went there a few times and it was a great way to practise my French and meet new people.

2018 Sofie Karlsson Gare de Tours

But how did I end up studying abroad? Well, I had one mandatory semester abroad in a French speaking country during my 3rd year since I’m studying French as part of my degree. Being me, loving to travel, I didn’t hesitate one second when I found out I was expected to study in France. However, I had a lot of thoughts the summer before the start of my 3rd year because I didn’t know anything, at the time, of what needed to be done before going but things got clearer once we got more information during the autumn semester. There was of course a lot of paperwork but it got easier with time so it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed at first and I didn’t have any issues with anything. I was also eligible to receive the Erasmus grant, since I studied in Europe, and I got it in time so I had an easy experience overall with the application process. Besides, all the preparations during the autumn semester made everything more real which was exciting at the same time as it was stressful. The whole study abroad experience had its ups and downs but I’m so happy I did it. I would recommend anyone who’s thinking about it to just do it because you won’t regret it. It was definitely worth it!’

Many thanks to Sofie for this great post (and pictures!) and we look forward to hearing more about your time in Tours when you’re back in Stirling in September. In the meantime, bonnes vacances!

Publications, progress reviews and teaching: a year in the life of a PhD student

This semester seems to be flying past and it doesn’t entirely seem possible that we should already be a week or so away from our mid-semester break. Our Year 1 students have just received feedback on the essays they wrote as part of our package of Bridging Materials, assessment deadlines are starting to fall for this semester’s modules, the schedule of films for Stirling’s section of the French Film Festival has made its way into the MacRobert programme… Against that busy backdrop, it’s good to get a chance to reflect on what a year in the life of French at Stirling can look like, from the perspective of one of our PhD students, Fraser McQueen who has very kindly made time to send us this blog post:

“I came back to Stirling to start my Ph.D in French Studies in October 2016, having originally graduated with a degree in French and History in 2014 before going to St Andrews to do an MLitt in French Studies and then spending a year teaching English as a lecteur at the Université de Toulon. I came back to Stirling mostly because I thought that it was the best place in Scotland for my project, given the department’s strategic focus on colonial and postcolonial studies, but also because I’d enjoyed my time here before. If it seems like a year is a long time to leave it before writing a blog post, I’m the only one to blame: I’ve been promising to do this for several months now!

I’ve just passed the first year review of my Ph.D, which means that I’m officially allowed to progress into the second year: the review process, during which I had to answer questions from three academics on the work I’ve produced so far, was quite stressful but also very helfpul in showing me the areas in which I still have a lot of work to do.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the first year of my Ph.D. I research representations of Islamophobia and coexistence in contemporary French literature and film: I believe that this is an extremely important subject, and it’s been great to have the chance to research it in depth.

I’ve also enjoyed the other opportunities that come with doing a Ph.D: I’ve presented at three conferences and had four articles published in The Conversation, a news and opinion website via which academics from Ph.D level upwards are able to share their research with a non-specialist audience. This is something that I’ve particularly enjoyed: I think that it’s important to communicate academic research to people outside of academia, particularly with projects like mine, and The Conversation is a great way to do that. Writing for non-specialists has also really helped me to write more clearly: I used to have a bad habit of writing huge sentences filled with jargon, which their professional editors wouldn’t allow. Although I can’t use the exact same style for my academic writing as I would in The Conversation, the experience of needing to be more concise has definitely helped and I’d strongly recommend that other Ph.D students try writing for them.

I also had my first journal article published in Modern and Contemporary France last week, which I’m really pleased with. Getting it through peer review was a very long process – I originally submitted it last November – but I feel that the article is much better for it. I also had a book review published in Modern and Contemporary France earlier in the year, and am now working on another journal article which I hope to submit elsewhere in the next month or so. I’m enjoying all of this, but trying to balance it all out with actually doing my research and writing my thesis can be tricky at times!

Problems balancing my workload and the occasional stress of writing to one side, though, I’ve really enjoyed the first year of my Ph.D. Over the next year I’m hoping to get draft versions of four of my thesis chapters written: it’ll be a challenge, especially given that I’m now also teaching undergraduates, but it’s one that I’m looking forward to.”

Many thanks to Fraser for taking the time to write this and congratulations on the progress review success, as well as on the publications front!

French at Stirling: ‘Interesting and comprehensive’

2017 Andrea Kolluder Student Profile PicThe last of the student profiles for this week comes from Andrea Kolluder who has also just reached the end of the first year of her degree programme here with us:

“Hello, my name is Andrea. I’ve just finished first year on my Integrated Master’s degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies. I’m studying French and Spanish as the language side of my degree. I will also be spending my 5th year studying for the Master Grande Ecole component of my degree at the Ecole de Management in Strasbourg, which I am already excited about even though it is still far away on the timeline.

My choice of Stirling University was perhaps a little unconventional. To put my life in a nutshell, I am from Hungary originally but I have spent most of my life living abroad. I finished secondary school in Ireland and took a much longer gap year period than most. I spent some time training to be a tour guide, worked in tourism in three different countries and four years later I ended up in Scotland for my university education.

My decision to coming to study here at the University of Stirling was mostly based on the degree options available. I found the courses available really suited all the things I wanted to gain a more in-depth knowledge of in order to continue to grow in my understanding of languages and cultures. After all, I am hoping to make a living out of being familiar with foreign languages and cultures.

The great location of Stirling also played a big part in my decision. I really liked the idea that Stirling is so close to major cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh without actually being in the middle of the busy large cities. To me this meant less distraction from my studies, with the option of having fun in a bigger city still close at hand if the mood were to strike for a change of scenery. I never actually made it to any of the open days for Stirling University before making my decision to come here, but once I arrived in Stirling I knew straight away that I had made the right choice. The gorgeous campus looked even better in real life than in the pictures I had seen online. It was of course even more lovely as last September was actually beautifully sunny and mild.

I have found studying French at Stirling very interesting and comprehensive. I have always been a bookworm, so I particularly enjoyed being introduced to so many different types and styles of French literature. The background history paired with the pieces of literature was a new way of improving language skills for me, but I feel like it really helped my French and I’m looking forward to the materials of the years ahead. My ultimate goal is to be able to read Alexandre Dumas’ books in French someday. Still have a long way to go, but I feel that the years of study ahead will help me get there.”

Many thanks to Andrea for this great blog post and we look forward to posting a review of Dumas in some future semester!

 

French at Stirling: ‘Relaxed and welcoming atmosphere in classes’

As promised, these few weeks will see a series of blog posts profiling some of our current students, so we’re delighted to get a chance to post the next of these with this article by Stuart Close, who has just completed his first year with us:

dav“Salut! I’m Stuart Close and I’m studying a BA Hons French and Spanish at Stirling University. I started learning French when I was still in primary school and was exposed to strange (but great) French movies from an early age! I considered it my main subject all the way up to Advanced Higher where I was the only Advanced Higher pupil in my school for a year! After trying French at another Uni and not enjoying the way it was being taught, I looked elsewhere and found Stirling Uni. It was far enough from my home town of Dunoon to still give me what I felt was ‘the Uni experience’ and offered more of a broader study of the languages and cultures they belong to rather than the narrower focus of how I’d seen French taught previously.

I have now finished my first year of Uni and I’m happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The way French is taught here is that it’s broken into three segments: langage écrit (writing and grammar), langage parlé (and listening) and matière which focuses on French history, literature and film. Both the langage classes are well taught and engaging, and the tutors keep learning complex grammar rules and speaking out loud in a foreign language fresh and fun by sprinkling in stories of their experiences learning English or French. With the culture side of things, topics such as the First World War, or the French Revolution, are introduced and then you get to see the French perspective and writings or films to study on them. One thing I really enjoyed from Matière was getting to study a graphic novel (bande dessinée), Tardi’s Putain de guerre. I don’t think you would get this experience in any other language study and, as these are a big part of French culture, it was a welcome change from poems or short stories.

Overall, I would highly recommend studying French at Stirling. The relaxed and welcoming atmosphere in the classes often makes it feel less like a class and more of a club.”

Thanks to Stuart for taking the time to write this. We’re really pleased Year 1 has gone so well and look forward to updates as your degree progresses!