French Honours Thesis Topic
This year, I am undertaking an Honours degree in French at a university here in South Africa.
The problem is that the academic year starts early this February, and I have yet to find a suitable research topic for a thirty to forty page thesis.
I have made a few suggestions but they weren't accepted as suitable.
Does anyone have any ideas on possible fields of topics in the French language, or possibly any resources that could perhaps inspire me?
Any and all help will be greatly appreciated!
A few possibilities come to mind:
Perhaps an essay on the Academie Française’s recent pronuncements about gender-inclusive writing and the hostile reaction thereto. Similarly, there are significant differences in the way that France and Quebec deal with gender-inclusive writing (in France, a female judge is “Madame le juge”, whilst in Quebec she is called “Madame la juge”). It could be interesting to extend the France-Quebec difference to other Francophone countries and to discuss popular response.
On a more literary side, it may be interesting to examine African or Haitian French literature (or movies, or TV) and identify and discuss language differences. Given that you are in South Africa, this may be a topic of particular interest acceptable to your faculty.
Haitian French (not Kreyòl, which is a different language altogether) has a number of fun features, including some French archaisms in vocabulary. My favourite is that in standard French, you marry “with” someone (Je me marie avec elle), whilst in Haitian French, you marry “against” someone (Je me marie contre elle). :-)
- Could you write about government language policy? I am not sure if this would be appropriate for your faculty, but a tirade (um, I mean, an academic discussion) again that ridiculous decision by the French Constitutional Court that declared Breton-language schools unconstitutional. When I was in high school years ago, I did a paper about minority languages in France (Breton, Basque, Provençal, Alsacian, Corsican) that I found interesting — I am sure that it would be developped in something appropriate for university. You might also write about a work or body of literature in one of these minority languages — which would enable a discussion of linguistic issues.
There was a really interesting link someone else posted recently on a type of Fench slange called Verlan, that plays with syllables and is making a comenack in France.. I am not an academic, but I feel like this was be very interesting to study, and slang in general, how it developes in subcultures and than makes it’s way to common use. Another suggestion, is comparing idioms across languages and cultures. People here are always asking about idioms, and the french language has some that seem unique to it. Bon chance!
How about selecting a piece (or several pieces) of literature that you find very interesting (probably the older, the better) and examine the etymology of words, phrases and manners of speech contained within each, dissecting and discussing how each found their way initially into the French language (and, in many cases, how they found their way into the English language which is riddled with examples).
Just an idea.
Bonne chance !
BTW Have you ever read « La peste » by Albert Camus? Published in 1947, it tells the story of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran. It asks a number of questions relating to the nature of destiny and the human condition. The characters in the book, ranging from doctors to vacationers to fugitives, all help to show the effects the plague has on a populace.
The novel is believed to be based on the cholera epidemic that killed a large percentage of Oran's population in 1849 following French colonisation, but the novel is placed in the 1940s. It is gripping and relevant - if it doesn't inspire you then nothing will. At around 360 pages, the book is a fairly short read also.