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French 3010 comes back to haunt me

FRANCE | Sunday, 6 September 2015 | Views [207]

There weren’t any morning activities scheduled on Thursday, so I slept in, walked around Paris for a while, and finally worked my way back to the university around two. This had given them enough time to respond to my e-mail, first to forward it to the right person (because it would be far too simple for the person responsible for registering students in math classes knew the correct person to contact about History of Math…) and then to tell me that I needed to meet with the math department first, and then with them, and they gave me the location. Well, I’d already met with the math department, so all that was left was to show up at their office.

This confused the person who was in the office I'd been told to go to. She went to the adjacent room to call for someone, then they came back. I reexplained the situation. They were asking me questions I didn't know how to answer when another woman came into the office. I explained yet again, this time to the delightful reaction of "yes, I did read an email about that." She told me to take a seat and, after a couple of questions about my student information, she gave me the hours of the course. (Good thing.) It was scheduled for Friday afternoons. The entirety of Friday afternoons, beginning at 13:45 and ending at 18:00. And with that, my dream of not having Friday classes died a glorious death.

I went back to the math department to show them the hours and get registered for courses. And, once again, we went through every course and chose a section. I now had a slightly better idea of what I wanted in a schedule, so I was more prepared. Knowing that I had a Friday evening class, I went the opposite direction and tried to avoid classes early in the week. So, with my three major classes out of the way, I had no classes Monday, and none Tuesday morning either. So still a pretty good schedule, overall.

Class with Christine was taking place at Musée Marmottan Monet. We met outside to go over a guide to discussing art in French. I recognised the vocabulary and the assignment as a repetition of what we'd done in my French class a year and a half ago. The difference was that in my French class, we were responsible for finding a picture online. Today, we were casually taking a metro to the largest collection of Monet's paintings in the world.

In the museum, we did a quick walkthrough to look at all of the paintings before deciding which one to write about. So, in about 20 minutes, I scanned through a large collection of impressionists. It didn't give me much time to look at Monet's works. Which would doubtless have disappointed some people I knew, but I was OK with it. (My mental commentary while walking through the Monet room: "that sure is paint. Yeah, I can see the flowers there. Is that a bridge? It is a bridge! Monet sure did like his water lilies. Oooh, Impression: Sunrise. You can tell it's important because the frame for this one is much fancier.") Then I went back upstairs to stare at Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Street. Rainy Day for about an hour.

Exactly how Paris looked when I arrived

The picture had drawn my attention as looking familiar. When I was researching it that night, I realised that it was because I had probably seen it at the Art Institute of Chicago. The more impressionist, faceless picture I was looking at right now was presumably a draft. I don't really know because it was irritatingly difficult to get information about that one, and I gave up after about 10 minutes of searching.

The problem, whether it came in French 3010 or part of the orientation for a semester in Paris, is that I can't competently talk about art in English. Although a list of phrases and words to describe the painting is necessary, it's not enough to make me able to describe the light or perspective of the painting. I still have binary associations between most famous artists and their major works, can roughly group artists into movements, and can occasionally impress a teacher with a comment about the directions hands are pointing in School of Athens, or the similarities between Titian's Venus of Urbino and Manet's Olympia. None of this should be confused for real knowledge. If I need to actually talk about a painting in detail, I'm completely faking it. Which was bad enough at Carthage, but when I'm around people who have actually taken an art history course? Let's just say I was super not looking forward to having to present my work the next day.

When I  had taken as many notes on the brush strokes and colors as I thought I could, and everyone was leaving, I headed over to the gift shop to look around and buy a postcard of my painting as reference. The prices turned out to be surprisingly reasonable, and I bought a couple of additional things, including an Impression: Sunrise hair clip. If I'd realized that it was only 7 euros, and not the 15 or more I expected to pay in a museum gift store for an item marked "handmade," I probably would have bought the other two hairclips they had. Maybe once I get my student ID, assuming it works there, I'll go back and cultivate my appreciation of Monet via a more balanced approach to the museum. And by continuing to replace boring objects like branded mint tins and black hair clips with ones that show reproductions of Monet's most famous paintings.

But I'm the mean time, I had a Caillebotte painting to write up and get sick of.

Tags: art, course registration, french

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