Friday, August 10, 2007

My Sister, The French Major


My sister majored in French in college. Her study of the French language ruined her for life.

I admit I have an ugly fondness for generalizations, so perhaps I may be forgiven when I declare that there is always something weird about a girl who majors in French. She has entered into her course of study, first of all, knowing full well that it can only lead to her becoming a French teacher, a very grim affair, the least of whose evils is poor pay, and the prospect of which should have been sufficient to send her straight into business or public relations. She has been betrayed into the study of French, heedless of the terrible consequences, by her enchantment with this language, which has ruined more young American women than any other foreign tongue.

Second, if her studies were confined simply to grammar and vocabulary, then perhaps the French major would develop no differently from those who study Spanish or German, but the unlucky girl who pursues her studies past the second year comes inevitably and headlong into contact with French literature, potentially one of the most destructive forces known to mankind; and she begins to relish such previously unglamorous elements of her vocabulary as langueur and funeste, and, speaking English, inverts her adjectives, to let one know that she sometimes even thinks in French. The writers she comes to appreciate--Breton, Baudelaire, Sartre, de Sade, Cocteau--have an alienating effect, especially on her attitude toward love, and her manner of expressing her emotions becomes difficult and theatrical; while those French writers whose influence might be healthy, such as Stendahl or Flaubert, she dislikes and takes to reading in translation, where their effect on her thought and speech is negligible; or she willfully misreads Madame Bovary and La Chartreuse, making dark romances of them. I gathered that my sister, in particular, considered herself 'linked by destiny" (liee par le destin) both to Nadja and to O. That is how a female French major thinks.

So much for my sister, the French major. There's no need to dwell on her any longer. You get the picture quite well by now, I'm sure.

6 comments:

Riesa said...

Hii! Greetings also from Finland! Have a nice christmas!

vida said...

Hi! Greeting from Iran!
Happy new year to you.

kevin said...

I stumbled across your blog trying to track down a Gary Freedman who left a post on my own. I'm not sure you're him, but funnily enough I too was a French major and have served as (what else!) a French teacher. Indeed they are a unique breed. Your sister is under the impression, nay, the delusion that there's no poverty like pretentious poverty. Your family should band together and save her now before Sartre and Sagan sink in. If you need a deprogrammer, drop me an email.

kevin said...

Et voila! I stand corrected. You are not only a Gary Freedman but also the Gary Freedman.

dillyberto said...

Good to know there are actually good people in Washington. The Louisiana press does not tell us this very much.

P@bLo™ said...

Very nice post, a close friend of mine was about to major in french... having taken only french 1301 & 1302 but I knida saved her and the best I could do was to get her to be in Psychology but under Science, not Liberal Arts =)