Medievalising modern French language teaching / suicide awareness day

A two-part class on the imperfect. With #poeticfemfog

1) Frame: Du Bellay, “Heureux qui comme Ulysse…”

Concepts: past/present, nostalgia, rêverie, the fogging of the past, how a magical moment can become a continuum.

Positives and negatives of nostalgic comparison: “les regrets”, returning from adventure, the down afterwards vs returning to long tranquility which is also what was sought or fought for in the first place, depression, war and trauma, survivor guilt, looking back on heroic adventure vs failure to die heroically.

Today is also Holocaust Memorial Day.

Recognising verbs as verbs from the presence of a preceding subject and verb endings. Yes, they therefore met the passé simple for the first time… and will meet it again on Friday…

Revision / recycling of FAIRE. Faire un beau voyage, aventurer, s’aventurer. Travel and adventures as the most obvious form of foggy misty-eyed escape.

(And some other stuff. Not too much. This was the under-10-minute version, as a frame-example for a second-term beginners’ French class. I’ll be doing the full 45-minute one next time I teach FREN 220 or similar…)

Very important vocabulary: “hélas”. There was good response to this word, so we practised it with “hé-” inbreath and exaggeratedly raised shoulders and “-las” drooping head. (I was very good and didn’t mention Flamenca or the eleventy billion Medieval Occitan through Renaissance Every European Language poems built around “hélas”. It’ll come in on Friday anyway…).

Fog can be feminine, and masculine too, and universally human. The latter as #poeticfog. So this was also a practical exercise in subverting, reclaiming, queering, and universalising #femfog

2) Present vs foggy nostalgic past. Exercise:

  • Maintenant, je [+ présent]
    avant / dans le passé / en [année] /quand j’avais […] ans / etc. je [+ imparfait]
  • Variations via student individual variation…
  • Classic: Maintenant, je ne dors pas assez
    avant, je dormais tout le temps.
  • What you used to always do in a rosy glowing perpetual heavenly past
    vs harsh hard-angled light of the present
  • Take a moment of perfect happiness.
    In daydreaming rêverie, turn that into a continuity and preface it with
    “Maintenant, je suis triste
    parce que je ne [+ présent] pas / plus,
    je rêve du passé quand [+ imparfait].”
    A more complex exercise, transforming a past-tense narrative that included (or, in the case of a single fleeting moment, was purely) passé composé.
  • Some groups decided they liked “hélas” so much they used it.
    I hadn’t thought of this at all, but it’s a really good thing to have at the core of a class or sequence on the imperfect, for moving into that misty-eyed mode.
  • Poetry went down rather well. Two groups have started writing in verse. There was delight at the last stanza of Du Bellay’s sonnet, missing as it is any conjugated verb. I have now promised to add poetry to composition topics and free writing sections of tests.

Suicide awareness day:

  • Poetry as consolation, redemption, salvation, therapy: reading it, writing it, writing it together…
  • Some nice people gave me a useful pen when I was walking in, on my way to class.
    This actually changed my class: I rethought my Grand Official Lesson Plan in the 10 minutes between receiving said pen and the start of class.
    Thank you, Suicide Awareness Ambassador student volunteers: a job well done.
    As I spend at least half of any class wandering around writing on students’ writing, this bright orange pen with a message on the side in big letters is smart but subtle (along the same lines of sensitive subtlety as my idea about Consenting Condoms).
    Thank you, UBC Suicide Awareness People: those pens are a brilliant idea.

  • This is precisely the kind of practical immediate active thing that is a good idea, and that contributes to a change in practices and to that social structure and culture of practices.
    As distinct from policies and procedures that are imposed from on lofty high, impersonal and depersonalised, distanced and distancing.
  • “Hélas” = as Occitanists all know, an excellent meditative exercise using breathing, slowing down heart-rate, a great mantra word if ever there was one; mimesis onomatopoeia metaphor for poesis itself; I’ve always felt it was the perfect poetic word, and I blame Flamenca (or rather, The Goddess Of Love therein).

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