Finding a Use for My French


When I was a kid, if your parents didn’t put you in French Immersion, you still ended taking core French starting in grade 4. In grade 6, my core French teacher recommended to my mom that I enter the Late Immersion program. This Late Immersion program started in Grade 7 and was for those kids who excelled in core French. I’m so glad my mom put me in that program! I continued to take French all through junior high and high school, and even applied to a French program at York University that would have qualified me to become a translator for parliament and political sessions. My cohort was studied by some researchers and we were tested and evaluated against our peers who were the same age but who had started in the Early Immersion program in grade 1.

At the end of high school, the researchers found that the early immersion kids had a better accent, and were verbally more fluent in French. The Late Immersion kids had a better grasp of both French and English grammar, and overall had better writing skills in both languages.

Fast forward to today…

I recently finished my paper for The Patristic Fathers. I ended up using several sources that were in French and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the French came back to me. I didn’t have to labour over the texts with a dictionary, nor did I have to refresh my imperfect verb tenses. It was awesome. (That being said, I know that my French accent has gone to crap, it is very very very very very very Anglo. Good thing I didn’t have to have a conversation in French).

And while most of the French material I read for the paper didn’t actually make it into the paper (that’s just how research goes), I found the experience not only enjoyable, but exciting.

It’s got me thinking about future research and educational pursuits. I’m wondering if there is a way to play up my French and specifically take advantage of it. I’m wondering if there are topics or avenues of research that would purposefully put my French to use.

I could drop Barth (after my M.A.) and find a French theologian to study…

I could study the Reformation in France, and look at writers like Marie Dentiere and Marguerite de Navarre

I could…

Any thoughts?

  • http://politicaljesus.com/ RodTRDH

    Hey Amanda,

    Just thinking out loud here, so here goes nothing. I would probably keep reading Barth, knowing that he is important to your work. James Cone and Moltmann and Hauerwas were foundational to where I started, but I am working beyond them now. Like the favorite evangelical text, perhaps you could “expand your territory” to theology and philosophy. For example, Stanley Grenz and James K A Smith engage Lyotard, Derrida, and Foucault in their work (all Frenchmen). When I read Spivak (not a theologian), she engages French feminism, names such as Helene Cisoux, Julia Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray keep coming up. Imagine what would it be like if there was a Barthian/theological engagement with these thinkers? I know I plan on reading Irigaray since she’s been recommended and maintains gender differences. One of my favorite french-speaking/writing scholars as you may have read is Frantz Fanon. I’d like to read his work in french someday, which means I may have to go back to my theological french texts.

    Just a few thoughts. If you have any other questions, let me know.

    • David

      the “holy trinity” of Cisoux, Kristeva, and Irigaray” are amazing and meaningful to me but they are complicated women and their North American reception has been poor so I highly recommend reading them in a class with someone who can handle french feminist theory well. Also as an aside French feminism is still thinking w/ and against these women’s early work but it has really progressed

      • http://cdntheologianscholar.wordpress.com Amanda

        French Feminist Theory…now there is something that would be completely new for me to study! So many possibilities so little life time to do!

  • http://politicaljesus.com/ RodTRDH

    Oh, also the French Patristics scholar Henri De Lubac is also worth looking into. He was into Patristic exegesis.

    • http://cdntheologianscholar.wordpress.com Amanda

      I have come across several references to Lubac. I should definitely add him to the list!

  • Alison

    I wouldn’t pick anyone JUST because they were French, but at the same time, I’d certainly take advantage of your French skills if the occasion arises, if that makes any sense… maybe just keep it at the back of your mind and try to keep giving all the Frenchmen (Frenchmen and women? Frenchpeople? what’s the gender-neutral version of Frenchmen?) a bit more attention than you might have otherwise?

    • http://www.briercrest.ca/faculty/profile.aspx?id=49 Charles

      “what’s the gender-neutral version of Frenchmen?”

      According to Monty Python, “French Persons.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDwGrCXYtX4

      • Alison

        Now how could I have forgotten that? And of course, Monty Python is a source of impeccable authority… =D

  • Dustin

    Resourcement/Nouvelle Theology…. Hans Boersma has blazed this trail for evangelicals…

  • David

    I would suggest doing french women writers especially during the reformation. They seem to be a logical continuation. There is always Héloïse

    Also if you are interested in going further in theology ditch Barth j/k. I am not really a Barth fan.

    If you are interested in continuing in theology for your Ph.D. the constructive theological turns are quite interesting.

    For sure in french you should read as much Foucault as you can. I believe he will be helpful to your projects.

    The big shift/turn in the humanities and especially in religion and is “affect theory” and for affect you need to know your Descartes, Foucault, and Spinoza (not french I know). Plus lots of the interesting challenging/compelling stuff on affect is in french.

    Another big movement and has been historically is phenomenology especially french phenomenologists. This would be: Maurice Merleau-Ponty; Emmanuel Lévinas, Deleuze & Guattari.

    Semiotics goes well with Barth
    lots have been written on Barth and Derrida
    so the Semiotic discussion would be: Louis Althusser, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Deleuze, and Alain Badiou.

    personally Jewish thinkers and writers are way under read in theology so I totally think you should work in some of them

    • David

      personally I love French feminist thought because of its complexity of thinking through issues of the body but I don’t know if that would be of interest to you. Virgina Burrus and Amy Hollywood doe wonderful jobs of weaving the two together

    • http://cdntheologianscholar.wordpress.com Amanda

      I’ve tried a bit of Foucault (in English). I think I would need to take an advanced philosophy class to get my head around his stuff!

  • http://www.ortlundsincanada.blogspot.com Erin

    Study for a PhD in France? Teach in French-speaking seminaries, perhaps somewhere like West Africa? I’m sure many would be happy for you to come teach for a week, a month, a semester??

    • http://cdntheologianscholar.wordpress.com Amanda

      Erin, I’ve thought about the teaching aspect, but I’d have to go back and brush up on my oral skills. One of the ideas we’ve thrown around is going back for a BA in French. Possibilities, possibilities.