What purpose does the Department of French, Literature, and Culture serve?
It may seem surprising that training future Canadian Armed Forces officers at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) includes teaching them about the French language, great literature in French, and Francophone culture in general. Yet we, as professors in the Department of French, Literature, and Culture at RMC, are committed to training the leaders of tomorrow by teaching the language, as well as by studying many literary and artistic works that open their minds to the world and its complexity. The knowledge transmitted in our department is part of our collective effort to train CAF officers who will be responsible, inspire confidence in their day-to-day work and important decisions, and possess open minds, cultural intelligence and strong analytical skills.
There are at least three excellent reasons why the French language, French literature and French culture are taught at the Royal Military College of Canada.
Reason 1: Language, accuracy, precision and clarity
Knowing how to convey a clear and convincing message is crucial for everyone, of course, but it is sometimes a matter of life or death for Canadian Armed Forces officers, who cannot afford ambiguity or misunderstanding. Mastery of the language is a prerequisite for clear oral and written communication, which are essential for officers who must respond to orders and for the training and operations they lead.
Reason 2: Literature and knowledge of the world
Openness to the world—its speech, habits and customs—will serve future officers in good stead as they interact with this diversity, often in crisis mode. At RMC, that openness is taught through exploration of several cultural and geographical areas: Quebec, the rest of Canada and France, of course, but also other parts of Europe, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and the islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. From the origins of Francophone culture to modern wars, our courses offer a global critical window on the world and the communities living in it. Literature is a privileged vehicle for the expression of a people’s values and culture, allowing anyone who opens a book to experience the pleasure of reading and acquire new knowledge about a multitude of subjects.
Reason 3: Contemporary culture and thinking
Many authors have written about the world around them, the social movements they have observed, and the revolutions and wars they have participated in or been affected by. Our team is committed to supporting officer cadets in their understanding of the world and helping them understand the social and cultural turmoil reflected in the works they study. Addressing the culture and evolution of societies over time leads cadets to perceive the world from the ever-shifting perspectives of geography, culture and era.
Willingness to enter into a universe other than one’s own through reading makes it possible to explore various ways of perceiving the world. To agree with or oppose an author’s ideas, or to properly analyze a given situation, officer cadets must understand the nuances of the author’s work or the situation. The assignments in our courses require students to develop their own interpretations of one or more texts, based on convincing arguments. With each passing session, we witness changes in the officer cadets, as they are transformed into analysts with unique skills that enable them to develop an argument while taking complex circumstances into account. This experience prepares them for their profession and for their many future encounters with the “other.”
For regulations concerning awarding of this degree, see the Undergraduate Calendar, Regulation 3.1, “Honours Programmes of Study – Academic Regulations.”