Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just a kid at the Sorbonne...English Class Part 1

Sorry, Audrey.  You're not as iconic as I thought...
You’d think living in France that I would go to extremes to learn about French culture.  I live in it every day, so it’s not that hard.  But leaning about – not just consuming – American culture in Paris?  There’s a concept.  There’s no American cultural center here to run to and hear talks about the “Joys of America.”  But there is, at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, a fantastically obligatory English class that I take with my fellow students.  They learn the nuances of the English language through Anglophone film.  I, on the other hand, learn the oftentimes surprising things that the world thinks about my culture.

Last semester we studied Britishness through film – a concept that I, as a non-Brit, was willing to discover.  The stereotypes and recurring themes were fresh and new and something I had never studied before.  To my classmates it was all about tea and gentlemen.  They almost got it.

But this semester, it’s all about America.  American culture studied by French students in a class directed by a British professor.  Bliss.

After just one class I have already learned so much.  Apparently to the French, Americans produce just a few categories of film in Hollywood: westerns, high school films, superhero films, and films with cars – something apparently unheard of in European cinema.  I was waiting for observations about historical pieces, dinosaurs, aliens, cartoon characters, and mocumentaries, but, alas.  There wasn’t even a mention of Disney.  No reference to Audrey Hepburn or Julia Roberts.  What gives?

We then briefly about American culture and sports in film.  The professor was enlightened to hear about my take on the Super Bowl.  It might just be me, but the commercials and the half-time show are arguably the reason so many people tune in to watch.  Otherwise, it’s just another football game, right?  When he asked me who won, I confessed that I had no idea…the Steelers?  (I learned yesterday it was, in fact, the Packers…)

After the class I asked my professor if it was, you know, weird that I was taking the class and if he wanted me to try and get an exemption.  He said no way, he loves the idea of having actual Americans in the class to flesh out the experience for the French students.  So I get to be a sort of reference point, that weird kid that everyone looks to when there is a question about, “Is this American or not?”


I secretly can’t wait til next week already….

2 comments:

  1. you just like being teacher's pet and everybody knows it. this must be a weekly column -- it will be my favorite.

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  2. It's wonderful to have an opporutnity to correct conceptions of American culture. Be kind.
    What movies are you watching? What is "American"?

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