9780226424194

French Lessons : A Memoir

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780226424194

  • ISBN10:

    0226424197

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1994-10-15
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr

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Summary

Brilliantly uniting the personal and the critical,French Lessonsis a powerful autobiographical experiment. It tells the story of an American woman escaping into the French language and of a scholar and teacher coming to grips with her history of learning. Kaplan begins with a distinctly American quest for an imaginary France of the intelligence. But soon her infatuation with all things French comes up against the dark, unimagined recesses of French political and cultural life.The daughter of a Jewish lawyer who prosecuted Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg, Kaplan grew up in the 1960s in the Midwest. After her father's death when she was seven, French became her way of "leaving home" and finding herself in another language and culture. In spare, midwestern prose, by turns intimate and wry, Kaplan describes how, as a student in a Swiss boarding school and later in a junior year abroad in Bordeaux, she passionately sought the French "r," attentively honed her accent, and learned the idioms of her French lover.When, as a graduate student, her passion for French culture turned to the elegance and sophistication of its intellectual life, she found herself drawn to the language and style of the novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine. At the same time she was repulsed by his anti-Semitism. At Yale in the late 70s, during the heyday of deconstruction she chose to transgress its apolitical purity and work on a subject "that made history impossible to ignore:" French fascist intellectuals. Kaplan's discussion of the "de Man affair" the discovery that her brilliant and charismatic Yale professor had written compromising articles for the pro-Nazi Belgian pressand her personal account of the paradoxes of deconstruction are among the most compelling available on this subject.French Lessonsbelongs in the company of Sartre'sWordsand the memoirs of Nathalie Sarraute, Annie Ernaux, and Eva Hoffman. No book so engrossingly conveys both the excitement of learning and the moral dilemmas of the intellectual life.

Table of Contents

Before I Knew French
First Words
The Last Summer at Wildhurst Road
Loss Leaving
Getting It Boarding School in Switzerland
Spring Break in France Coming Home
Getting It Right
Andreacute; Micheline
Ceacute;line
Revisions In Search of the French ""R"" Tenses
Guy, de Man, and Me
The Trouble with Edna
The Interview
Returning Home
Afterwards
Note on the Text
Acknowledgment
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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