Uchenna C. Ezibe ‘14
I began studying French and Arabic language during my first semester at Bowdoin, and my interest in both of these languages led me to attend a study abroad program in Rabat, Morocco during the spring semester of my junior year. After returning from my semester abroad, and under the encouragement and support of the French department and under the direction of Professor Vété-Congolo, I began writing an Honor’s thesis. This thesis, titled “The Amazigh People: From Antiquity to the Contemporary Period”, focuses on the Amazigh people (commonly called the Berbers) who inhabit the Maghreb region of Northern Africa. It examined aspects of both the 9,000 year-old history of the Amazigh people and their literary traditions through oral and written works. The project analyzes the Amazigh culture and identity, and the experience of writing this Honor’s thesis was extremely valuable and illuminating.
While abroad in Morocco, I was exposed to Amazigh culture on a daily basis, as the Amazigh people or people with Amazigh origins make up over 40% of the population of the country. Conducting research on these complex people and writing the Honor’s thesis gave me the opportunity to contextualize and give more meaning to my experiences abroad. I have a newfound interest in the region both academically and personally.
Writing an Honor’s thesis was a challenging experience. The opportunity to pursue a rigorous research assignment, however, was indispensable to my education at Bowdoin. While writing such a project did require a large amount of time, perseverance and organization, it was an opportunity that I am immensely happy to have undertaken. The concentration and hard work that the project demanded gave me the chance to put the various skills and knowledge I have acquired while studying at Bowdoin to the test, and it was the perfect capstone to my four years at the college.
I am very appreciative to Professor Vété-Congolo, who directed my research and the writing of the project. She provided excellent guidance from start to finish. I am also very grateful for the assistance of Professor Daniels, who initially encouraged me to pursue writing an honor’s thesis and provided invaluable guidance along the way. My thesis was only possible through the support and feedback of these two dedicated professors. I learned an immense amount throughout the challenging but rewarding process of researching for and writing my thesis, and I am thankful to the entire French department for providing this opportunity.
Doug Leonard '12
After taking a course in Spring 2011 on 20th century France, I began to think a lot about the depiction of behavior and social mores in literature. Is it okay for an author to reveal the details about a friend's private life in his autobiographical novel? What is an author really saying when she writes about the behavior expected of her at school and at church? Questions like these inspired my current honors project: "L’Ecriture activiste: la représentation de la révolte dans la littérature d’Annie Ernaux, d’Hervé Guibert et de Christiane Rochefort" a study of countercultural revolt in 20th century France and its representation in literature. Focusing on the works of Hervé Guibert, Annie Ernaux, and Christiane Rochefort, I'm looking for ways in which these authors attacked the prevailing thought and customs of their time. I'm working primarily with Professor VanderWolk, but I'm also receiving guidance from Professors Dauge-Roth and Daniels. All three have been great, and the department is a really encouraging environment in which to conduct research.
Daniel Chin '12
My honor’s thesis "L'Ecriture de la diaspora franco-chinoise: l'identité et la capacité transformative de la langue" is on migrant Chinese writers in French literature. Before taking a class when I was abroad in Paris called “Francophone Chinese Writers”, I had never before thought these two groups would intersect. My professor had us read two books in a very structured way, which is how the French universities like to teach. What excites me most about this project is that I can bring it to Bowdoin and really personalize it as an independent work to finish my French major. I’m really enjoying the process of exploring a unique topic and finding help from a number of professors with different research areas. As I consider graduate studies, this is also a really valuable experience to do research and practice presenting, and most of all, to improve my French skills. Returning to the actual content of the project, I am looking at four writers and their diverse works on identity formation. These writers negotiate cultural differences between China and different western societies, which they have found through French language and literature. Overall, my project explores the transformative power of language and literature, so I feel like it really reinforces a lot of what I have learned during my time at Bowdoin.
Dashelle Fabian ' 11
After being inspired by a course I took during my junior year in Paris called Les récits du métissage (stories about the mixing of cultures), I decided to write an honors project. I had never thought about métissage as a literary topic, nor was I aware of the extent of literature written about it. One of the novels I read for the course, Nini mulâtresse du Sénégal, immediately captured my attention and made me want to read more about métis identities. I felt passionate about métissage as a research topic due to its rich history; however, another aspect of my research became a personal identity search and discovery, something I was excited to explore through academia.
While I was still in Paris, I contacted Professor Vété-Congolo, wrote a proposal and found a large selection of novels and essays about métissage I could use for my project. As I narrowed down my reading list, I decided to divide my project into two sections, with one focusing on literature from West Africa (primarily Senegal) and the other focusing on literature from the Caribbean (primarily Martinique). This allowed me to analyze more literary styles and discover the similarities and differences between West African and Caribbean métissage.
I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to write an honors thesis and be supported through the entire process. I appreciate the energetic guidance I had from my thesis advisor Professor Vété-Congolo, as well as from my thesis readers Professors Daniels and Lindo (who no longer works at Bowdoin), who both enthusiastically read my thesis and gave me valuable feedback.
Writing an honors thesis for the Bowdoin French department is a wonderful experience that helps students refine their academic skills in French, challenge themselves and work with dedicated professors. I can confidently say that the Bowdoin French professors wholeheartedly encourage students through the entire process of writing an honors thesis, and work with students so they will succeed.