the late 16th century, when modern comedy in French was created, and
until WWII (1939-45), there existed a consensus on the basic features
of the genre: it had a fairly linear plot (a beginning, a middle and
an end) with verisimilar (that is, plausible rather than realistic)
This model was predicated in the belief that the world and human life
made sense. After the horrors of the war, however, a powerful trend
emerged towards regarding the world and human existence as absurd,
and nowhere was this movement more developed than in France. While
its leading proponents were writers/philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre
and Albert Camus, both only produced plays that offered an extremely
bleak, humorless vision: the best known, Sartre's Huis Clos
(No Exit, 1944) involves three unsavory characters stuck
in the same room, discovering
that they are in Hell, and that their eternal punishment is having
to put up with (and
essentially torment) one another.
Within a decade, new playwrights emerged who would dramatize the absurdist
view of human existence through comedy; in so doing, they also completely
reinvented the genre with a focus on deconstructing conventional dramatic
form. Ionesco's La
Cantatrice chauve (The Bald Soprano, 1950)
substituted to the usual plot a series of scenes imitating dialogues
found in a then-popular language learning method. There is no soprano
(bald or otherwise) in it. In Beckett's En attendant Godot
(Waiting for Godot, 1953) two vagrants engage in apparently
purposeless banter to kill time, until their alledged benefactor,
arrives (he never does). Jean Tardieu even wrote an
entire series of playlets intended to demonstrate the absurdity of
Initially, spectators were often puzzzled, frustrated, sometimes even
infuriated when confronted with such plays; but in time, avant-garde
writing and performing would become the new norm, and these "scandalous"
plays turn into revered classics.
we can really only understand plays from this period through performance,
by studying the conditions in which they were staged, by seeing them
staged or, better yet, by performing them ourselves.
Yet performing these plays still poses an interesting challenge since
they essentially ignore the logic of plot (a sequence of events that
are somewhat connected by rationally determined linked, such as causality)
and characterisation based on psychological motivation.
In this course, students take on a part in
the rehearsal of scenes from French comedic stage plays of the mid-20th
century, with the possibility of performing a whole
play on stage (depending on enrolment and other factors). In so doing
they not only improve their public speaking skills in French, but
they also learn more about Modern French drama, and about comedy as
both a literary and performative genre. Studying the plays will provide
an opportunity to learn about French history and society in the 20th
In this course, students will
• take on and rehearse roles in scenes from various 20th-century
• practice their close reading skills;
• learn and practice public speaking techniques and strategies
(diction, tempo, breathing, posture);
• learn and practice basic acting techniques, and
improve their acting skills if they have already undergone some stage
• expand their knowledge of comic drama;
• read other plays of the period in order to become familiar
with the features of mid-20th-century
French comedy and melodrama (character types, plot structure, etc.);
• reflect on their rehearsal work and on their learning
course requires the active participation of students since most of
class time is devoted to rehearsing a stage play (we will work on
different plays). The teacher will provide constant suggestions and
feedback on acting techniques as well as on French diction. At the
end of the semester, the class may give a live performance in which
everyone will take on a part (length of time on stage may vary).
Although the nature of the work in this course is essentially
performative and collaborative, students need to prepare for class
by practicing their lines (on their own or with a partner) and memorizing
The initial phase of the class involves a close reading
of the play in order to clarify unknown or obscure vocabulary, but
also allusions and references in the text.
Students will also reflect on the work being done through
complementary readings of other mid-20th-century
and engage in a continuing conversation using BlackBoard's Discussion
student is expected to be present for every class and arrive on time
(repeated tardiness will be penalized). If an absence is anticipated,
the instructor must be notified beforehand by e-mail or by phone (ext.
An absence may be "excused" if it was
caused by an unforeseen event or accident that made it impossible
or extremely difficult for a student to attend class, and which can
be documented. If you feel sick enough to miss class, then you should
also seek medical attention and obtain a certificate from the health
care provider who treated you. If you suffer from a chronic mental
or physical condition that occasionally flares up to the point of
incapacitating you, you need to be registered with the University
health services in order to be granted accommodations.
A student who was absent (justifiably or not) remains
responsible for finding out what was done or assigned during the missed
class(es), and for turning in assignments on time. Unjustified absences
will result in a reduction of the portion of the final grade allotted
to "Presence, Preparedness and Participation."
You must come to class prepared by having completed
assignments as indicated by the instructor, in an appropriate manner
(see the "Total Commitment Policy").
Manifest lack of adequate preparation will result in a reduction of
the portion of the final grade allotted to "Presence, Preparedness
Participants need to have completed
(or be completing concurrently) the "Advanced French" sequence
in the Georgetown curriculum (101-102 or 111-112 or their equivalent),
or be able to demonstrate a level of French speaking and listening
proficiency congruent with the course objectives. Contact Dr. Spielmann
if you are not sure that you qualify.
aspects of this class fall under Georgetown University's honor system.
If you are not thoroughly familiar with its provisions, please review
them at http://honorcouncil.georgetown.edu/system/policies.
A point of particular concern is using source material appropriately
and avoding plagiarism : "Plagiarism, in any
of its forms, and whether intentional or unintentional, violates
standards of academic integrity. Plagiarism is the act of passing
off as one’s own the ideas or writings of another (…).
While different academic disciplines have different modes for attributing
credit, all recognize and value the contributions of individuals
to the general corpus of knowledge and expertise. Students
are responsible for educating themselves as to the proper mode of
attributing credit in any course or field. (…) Note
that plagiarism can be said to have occurred without any affirmative
showing that a student’s use of another’s work was intentional.
OF PAGE - MENU