Thursday, May 26, 2016
Honors thesis in French leads to awards, publications and international opportunities for Cameron Cook '16
by Aimee LaBrie
On May 13, Cameron Cook '16 received his diploma, and this milestone was one of the many he has achieved during his time as a French major at Rider. During the fall semester of his junior year, he studied aboard at the Catholic University of Paris, where all of his classes were conducted in French. On April 20 of this year, he was honored with the Outstanding Senior in French Award from the American Association of Teachers of French. Following graduation, he is boarding a plane to France to teach English. Because of his outstanding academic achievements, he was one of the few students in the country to receive a one-year teaching contract through the French Ministry of Education.
He attributes much of his success to Dr. Mary Poteau-Tralie, professor of French. "I met Dr. Poteau-Tralie my freshman year and she’s been my academic advisor over the last four years," Cook says. "She has inspired me to continue my studies in French at the graduate level. Her support has been a very influential, driving force in shaping my future."
Cook first became interested in the language in high school where he found he had an aptitude for French. His decision to study at Rider came after he and his mom visited campus and he was accepted into the University’s EOP program. "I really liked the faculty and staff I met," he says. "They were very approachable and I was drawn to the small classes and the one-on-one instruction I would receive in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures."
His honors thesis, “Precarious Palimpsest in French Urban Literature: The Case of Abd Al Malik," which he successfully defended in December, looks at the French rapper and writer. In his thesis, he argues that Al Malik uses the numerous influences present in his writing to unite disparate elements of French society. In this way, the rapper is attempting to build a bridge between the French state and the disenfranchised neighborhoods that exist on the outskirts of major French cities.
"In Al Malik’s books, we see references to Albert Camus, John Paul Sartre and Jacques Prévert among others, and these influences can also be heard in his music as well," Cook explains.
After his thesis was completed, Dr. Poteau-Tralie helped him to present his paper at the Europe: East and West Undergraduate Research Symposium held at the University of Pittsburgh. She also worked with him to co-author an article entitled "Palimpsest in the Rap Lyrics of Abd Al Malik: Rejuvenating the Study of Poetry." The article is scheduled to appear in Vol. 90.4 of The French Review to be published in the spring of 2017.
“Her mentorship has been invaluable and I am deeply indebted to her for all of the help and guidance that she’s given me during my time at Rider,” says Cook.
After he completes his year teaching in France, Cook is interested in continuing his studies toward a doctorate in French.