Language department celebrates French-Canadian connections during National French Week

Students and faculty enjoyed poutine, crepes, hockey and music in a celebration of French-Canadian culture for the 13th annual National French Week. Le Cercle Francais, or the French Club, hosted the event, sponsored by the department of languages and literatures.

President senior Lauren Slezak coordinated the week alongside adviser visiting assistant professor of French Kathryn Fredericks and professor of French and western humanities Beverly Evans. The three collaborated and brainstormed ideas for educating attendees about French-Canadian culture.

What helped was that this semester, Evans is teaching FREN 375: French-Canadian Literature for the first time, so “it kind of all fell together,” Slezak said.

The week focused on cultural education through French and French-Canadian films, speakers and food. Speakers included Kara Szamborski '11 and Eileen Angelini, professor of French at Canisius College and 2010-2011 recipient of the Canada-United States Fulbright Scholar Award. Students who studied abroad in francophone areas including Slezak and senior Lily Wheeler shared their experiences in a study abroad session.

The week also welcomed students to learn how to make crepes with teaching assistant Nadjet Sarrab and eat at Simply Crepes in Pittsford, N.Y.

Slezak noted that the Monday Nov. 11 screening of The Rocket followed by the Tuesday Nov. 12 reading of “The Legend of Maurice 'Rocket' Richard: An Inspirational Story that Crosses Borders and Cultures” by Angelini were well-attended events. Richard is a legendary Canadian ice hockey player who played for the Montreal Canadiens and was the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games and 500 goals in a career.

Slezak, who spent six weeks in an immersion program in Montreal, emphasized the differences between French-Canadian and French culture, noting geography as playing a big role for the identity of French-Canadian language.

Because English-speaking provinces and countries surround it, “French Canada is constantly worried about losing it identity,” she said, adding, “When I was there, just the sense of strength in terms of identity is incredible.”

The week closed on Tuesday Nov. 12 as Geneseo String Band played traditional French-Canadian songs that Wheeler transposed herself, followed by a screening of the short film Crac, which explores the industrialization of Montreal through the life of a rocking chair.

“French-Canadian culture is impossible not to love,” Slezak said. “It's enthusiastic and proud.”