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Centers of Excellence

French Studies Workshops

Project coordinator: Emmanuelle SAADA

Total costs of the project: $57.300
Embassy of France support: $28.000

Summary of the Project

The field of French and Francophone studies has changed tremendously over the past 15 years. “Theory” has been displaced by a renewed interest in philological and historical approaches.  The study of “culture” under many guises has been added to that of language and literature.  Interdisciplinary approaches have flourished. The corpus has been enlarged by incorporating the cultures of places marked by the long shadow of French imperialism.

In the context of a perceived crisis of the humanities, the profession must reflect on these developments and imagine new paths for research and training. The Centre of Excellence at Columbia University is uniquely situated to lead this reflection: it has vibrant undergraduate and graduate programs, it recently expended its collaborations with French universities, and it benefits from the expertise of the 50+ members of its Center for French and Francophone Studies, drawn from more than ten schools and departments. Finally, by adding specialists of history, philosophy and anthropology to its faculty, the French Department is offering a vision for the future of the field based on a rigorous dialog across disciplines.  While literature remains an essential object of this dialog, it is considered neither as a “given” (several members of the department investigate the boundaries between literature and other forms of cultural production) nor as the unique object of French and francophone studies.

To frame this collective reflection, a series of three workshops will be organized around three key questions: the status of literature in French studies; the future of “Francophone studies”; and undergraduate and graduate training.

Each workshop will be organized as a day-long discussion of 8 short position papers circulated in advance, written by major American scholars in French and Francophone studies. Invited scholars, members of French departments and other language departments and graduate students will be invited to attend.

                Representatives from all 18 members of the French Cultural Services network of Centers of Excellence will be invited: this project will thus help cement a sense of intellectual community within the network. The workshops will be organized in collaboration with the Columbia Heyman Center for the Humanities’ program on the “future of the disciplines”.

                The results will be presented at a panel at the MLA meeting in 2015.  We will also publish the debates on a website to continue the exchange beyond the workshops, and will prepare them for a special issue of Romanic Review.