Department Research Seminar

*The April FRIT Research Seminar will be held in the Red Gym on April 20, 2016 at 4pm.

 Presenters will be limited to 20-minute presentations with a time for questions & comments following.


Amy Clay, PhD Candidate, SLA Program Vlad Dima, Assistant Professor of French

Joshua Armstrong, Assistant Professor of French


 Amy Clay:

 You just messed up my whole idea of how this works:  One L2 French learner’s knowledge about pastparticiple agreement with the passé composé

 Second language instruction and learning involves a great deal of talking and thinking about how the target language works. Language learners and teachers alike construct understandings of the target language’s structure and meaning from various previous experiences, including language instruction, pedagogical training, textbooks and materials, and real world experience with their own and other languages. Knowledge about language (KAL), including explicit and metalinguistic knowledge, has been shown to be advantageous for learners. However, research has not fully addressed how KAL is learned and used. In this presentation, I discuss my current dissertation research on how French language learners understand the past in French. I examine my use of cognitive constructivism to inform how I understand and research KAL and I present the use of clinical interviews as a bottom-up, learner- focused methodology. Furthermore, I discuss one instance in the interviews when a French learner encounters and explains their difficulty with understanding how to use agreement with the passécomposé, their final comment being, “You just messed up my whole of idea of how this works.” I discuss how knowledge construction is reflected in this participant’s description and some practical implications related to this particular instance of (mis-) understanding.


 Vlad Dima:

Gr8 Form Over Content

Our relationship with cinema constantly changes, which might be natural given the fact that the moving image, well, moves. In our times, cinema has expanded well beyond the screen and the theater—paratextual and/or extra-diegetic narratives now accompany every movie, to the point that the content of the movie itself becomes almost irrelevant or at the very least secondary to those narratives. However, the empty space vacated by the abandonment of content must be filled somehow, and so contemporary cinema over-compensates for this lack with form, with aesthetics. This paper speculates on the impact of current cinematic aesthetics on spectatorship, on what makes a “good” movie and on the role of the contemporary auteur.


Joshua Armstrong

Point of No Return? The Threshold of Animal Extinction in Jean-Christophe Bailly and Eric Chevillard

Scientists and environmental activists continue to warn us: something must be done to reign in human consumption of the Earth’s natural resources. The haunting implication is that we are approaching a point of no return of ecological devastation. We must act now, we are constantly told, before it is too late. But when, exactly, will it be too late? What will it look like to cross this ominous threshold that, once crossed, would usher in the demise of our own species?

French authors Jean-Christophe Bailly and Eric Chevillard offer us a glimpse of one very concrete instance of such an ecological point of no return: that of animal extinction. Bailly, in Le versant animal (2007), signals that animals are the only beings that possess the ability to return the gaze of humans, and that their unfathomable gaze humbles us and crucially keeps visible for humans the mystery and variety of being. Whereas Bailly’s philosophical reflections constitute a renewed attention to the animal before the threshold of its extinction is crossed, Chevillard’s Sans l’orang-outan (2007) begins with the fait accompli of extinction. In Chevillard’s novel, the sudden and seemingly unimportant event of the demise of the world’s last two orangutans sets off a series of events that ultimately throws the entire planet out of balance, as the planet is knocked off its axis and out of its orbit, and as human subjectivity, identity, and language become highly unstable.

In this paper I will track the ontological consequences for humankind of losing its animal other, as these are sketched out philosophically in Bailly’s text, and as they are brought to life fictionally in Chevillard’s novel. Finally, I will situate Bailly’s and Chevillard’s texts within a broader corpus of recent French literature that also takes up the troubled question of the animal.