McGraw Teaching Seminar: Intellectual Acts and Social Practices

Our assignment for this seminar was to create an assignment and a rubric. These were then reviewed by our peers in the seminar, a process that was helpful in our understanding of what intellectual acts were actually going on in the classroom.

Assignment: Explication de Texte

Read the poem “Le dormeur du val” by Arthur Rimbaud and write a traditional “explication de texte” in French about it. The “explication de texte” is a common French assignment that has the student engage with the text in a quasi-scientific manner, explicating it terms of content, form, and rhetoric, in a structured essay that can be broken down as follows:

Introduction: In this part, the student situates the text, describes its main attributes, what happens in it, and its main themes. Details often mentioned in the introduction include (but are not limited to):

Primary information: author’s name, title, the date of publication, pertinent historical context
The form: genre, type of verses, rhyme scheme, fixed form poetry, variations
The subject: what is the topic of the passage? What is the function of the passage within the larger text (if an excerpt)?
Outline: Generally within an introduction to a French explication de texte, the student writes an outline at the end of the introduction, explaining the order of what will come next. Often, students will choose to analyze the text in order, with each major section of the text discussed in individual paragraphs; sometimes, students choose to write thematically.

Analysis: Here, the student describes the structure of the passage, the development, and the different parts of the text. The analysis depends on the text in question, and often deals with some of the following questions:

• Does the author move from a general idea to a specific one or vice versa?
• What is the tone?
• Who is speaking?
• What sort of language does the author use?
• What tense is the passage in, and what is the significance of the changing of tenses?
• Why does the author use this particular diction or syntax?
• What are the stylistic choices: images, metaphors, comparisons, paraphrasing, repetition of words or syntactical structures, historical or literary allusions, personification, etc.?
• What is the effect produced by such techniques?

Conclusion: Finally, the student should summarize the preceding study of the passage, with the main emphasis being on the main themes and their relationship to the form. Finally, he/she should give a personal evaluation of the text and your reactions. The purpose of an explication de texte is to deepen your understanding of the text and appreciation of the poetic and literary qualities of the author.

Rubric for Evaluation

Structure: ___ / 5

• Does the overall structure of the essay contain the introduction, analysis, and conclusion?
• Introduction: Does the introduction properly situate the text, give pertinent information about its historical/cultural context, the author, and the nature of the passage? Is there a clear thesis in the introduction? Does it include an outline?
• Analysis: Does the analysis follow the text in a logical manner? Is the text cited within the analysis section to support points made in the introduction? Does the analysis develop the claims made in the introduction? Does the structure of the analysis follow the outline presented in the introduction?
• Conclusion: Does the conclusion both summarize the preceding summary and provide a personal evaluation?
• Is the structure clearly defined throughout the essay and easy to recognize while reading?

Style: ___ / 5

• Is the essay well-written? Ex) Varied sentence structure, not too much repetition, precise word choice, consistent tense (explications de texte dealing with literature are always written in the present tense when describing the text, but past when describing the historical context), etc.
• Is the writing interesting? Does the introduction pull the reader in? Is the reader constantly engaged in the analysis?

Analysis: ___ / 5

• Language: Can student effectively identify types of literary language and explain how such language is important to the passage and its overall meaning?
• Theme: Can student expand the analysis of the language of the text to discuss the broader theme of the passage or novel? Perhaps even to other literature?
• Thesis: Can student maintain his thesis throughout the analysis?
• Examples: Does student give detailed examples from the text to substantiate his/her claims? Are examples presented logically and critically?
• Relationship to classroom discussions: Does the student expand beyond the classroom discussions in his/her analysis? Can he/she identify the text given the author and date of publication as well as situate it more profoundly within the larger literary history we have discussed?

French: ___ / 5

• Student is able to express him/herself in French with minimal comprehension errors.
• The grammatical points of the writing are representative of successful completion of required language prerequisite courses.
• The vocabulary the student uses in French is rich and varied.
• The spelling and accents are accurate with minimal errors.
• The student is able to maintain a formal, academic register of language throughout the essay.