The Center for French and Francophone Studies
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A Duke Romance Studies alumnus (PhD, French Studies, 2009)

Micah True

 For more Information and order online visit: www.mqup.ca

 

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Text By Jonah Sherman, Class of 2017

L’Albertine, nichée au fond de l’Ambassade de France à Manhattan, est un espace littéraire privé et intime. Avec des rayons de livres qui s’étendent sur toutes les parois de la pièce, ainsi que des tables complètement couvertes de bouquins, cette librairie est un lieu spirituel et intellectuel. Un véritable jardin sacré, les Livres de Poche, les Folios, et les Minuits invitent tous à les cueillir et de humer leurs parfums uniques. La rencontre de titres et d’auteurs familiers me livre instantanément à la nostalgie, à de bons souvenirs de lectures. Néanmoins, de nouveaux titres, éparpillés dans la salle, attendent leurs propres découvertes. Une murale de constellations figure sur le plafond ce qui rend ouvert les esprits des lecteurs et rend close ce refuge.
Cet espace unique est certainement un paradis pour les lecteurs francophones comme moi. En tant que diplômé du Lycée Français de New York, je suis jaloux que L’Albertine ne fût pas ouverte durant ma formation pédagogique. Il m’aurait été plus réjouissant de me promener vers L’Albertine pour acheter les livres exigés par mes professeurs au lieu d’attendre l’arrivée de mes commandes d’Amazon. Le choix personnel et tactile d’un livre des rayons d’une librairie demeure une expérience incomparable que des livraisons numériques ne pourraient jamais remplacer. De plus, les bibliothécaires sont munis d’une connaissance littéraire très vaste, qu’une visite à L’Albertine me permettra d’élargir mes goûts et de rencontrer de nouveaux œuvres. Désormais je suis à Duke, éloigné d’un milieu académique entièrement français. Cependant, l’ouverture de L’Albertine m’offre un espace privilégié où je pourrai me remettre à ma découverte de livres français lorsque j’obtiendrai mon diplôme et retournerai chez moi.

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IMG_1967Vous pouvez achetez en ligne sur le site de la librairie des livres en Francais et en Anglais.

www.albertine.com

In Duke Today, Geoffrey Mock, 01/27/2015

Expressing solidarity with those killed at France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine and the aftermath is an easy step. More challenging, Duke faculty say, is making sense of these events, and figuring out what to do next to protect free speech and change the transition from alienation to violence.

Are the attacks a sign that French Arab and Muslim youth are so cut off from the principles of social critique, public order and religious community that they target people representing these principles? Was the French outrage a desperate response to the unequal value of Muslim lives in France and elsewhere?

Duke faculty and students joined a visiting French scholar and members of the public recently for a panel discussion last week sponsored by the Forum for Scholars and Publics. The pain of the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains palpable, but the vigorous debate explored many layers of the tests facing France and policymakers worldwide in the aftermath.

Leading the discussion were Helen Solterer, professor of Romance Studies and director of Center for French and Francophone Studies; Omid Safi, professor and director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center; and Céline Flécheux, professor of Visual Studies at the Université de Paris VII-Diderot.

Phillippe Lancon

One of Duke’s own was shot in the Charlie Hebdo editorial room earlier this month.  Literary critic Philippe Lançon had been a media fellow at the Sanford School’s Dewitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy on campus, and was invited back in the spring of 2010 to teach “French Short Fiction” and “Literature and Politics” in the Department of Romance Studies.

Lançon survived the attack, and his Duke colleagues mobilized to express their support for him on the Website of the Center for French and Francophone Studies.  The course: “Franco-American History of Free Speech,” taught by center director Helen Solterer, which began the day after the attack, was dedicated to him.

A week after the attacks, Lançon wrote in his newspaper, Liberation: “I wanted to tell you just this: if there’s one thing this attack has taught me and made me hold onto, it’s the reason why I work for these two papers: in a spirit of freedom and the desire to show it, in information and drawing, in good company, in every possible way, even in ways that don’t work. … It’ll take me a little time, and some rehab before I laugh again – my jaw is more fragile than my heart, but I’ll get there.”

Flécheux was in Paris during the attacks and spoke to the deep pain felt throughout the country. She showed a variety of creative responses from the march that mobilized millions, including the now famous declaration of identity – “Je Suis Charlie” and a crying Charlie Brown, the cartoon character who had inspired the French journalists.   Flécheux discussed how Charlie Hebdo – even in its over-the-top style, was a deep part of childhood for many in France.  It was difficult to explain to her young children why people would want to kill cartoonists, she said.

Charlie Hebdo is part of a distinctively French tradition, Flécheux added.

“In France there is a political tradition of cartoon in journalism,” she said. “It is an important way of countering all types of power in the state.  This is an Enlightenment heritage, and its core principle of tolerance, including religious tolerance.”

Solterer, who is teaching a class on free speech, focused on the value of “critique” as a baseline of free expression. A country that battled theocracy for centuries to establish a secular republic, France believes deeply in the critique of religion.

Charlie Hebdo’s provocative style has triggered anger for years.

“But this is equal-opportunity offensiveness,” Solterer said.  “The magazine lampoons aspects of Catholicism and Judaism, as well as of race and gender just as frequently as those of Islam.  Its cartoon characters spoof ideas rather than the individuals representing them.”

Solterer spoke of the French concept of“laïcité,” which provides a framework that supports the journalists’ right of critique since the separation of church and state became French law in 1905.   “A political practice and a state of mind, the French brand of secularism goes a long way in explaining why identity politics doesn’t work there,” Solterer said.  “Identities in the public sphere are understood not as an expression of citizenship, but as a compromise or even resistance to it.  In order to respect all identities in the Republic, all religious ones for example, none is given a place in the public domain.”

But Solterer also pointed to the difficult position of many French Arabs, West Africans and immigrants from former colonies.  Their living and working conditions are poor; their rates of incarceration high.

“This situation demands our attention and critique,” she said.

At the same time, she underlined the tragedy of young men taken by an ideology that perverts religious terms to authorize self-destructive violence – what Franco-Lebanese writer, Amin Maalouf, calls “murderous identities.”

Safi denounced the killings but asked the audience to raise questions about what he felt was selective outrage. The same week as the Paris shootings, 37 Yemeni civilians were killed by an armed group and Nigerian rebel group Boko Haram swept through rural communities, killing as many as 2000 people. Neither attracted demonstrations from world leaders.

Satire is not foreign to Arab or Islamic culture, which has a long legacy of political humor that often puts its,artists at great legal or personal risk. This is heroic work, he said. The difference from the Hebdo cartoons is that too often the French artists directed their humor at stereotypes that supported the marginalization of Arabs in French culture.

“Good satire is in unmasking power,” Safi said. “When satirists target the disenfranchised or people of color, I find it to be bullying.”

The “Je Suis Charlie” exasperated the tension by forcing Muslims not just to support the right of Charlie Hebdo to free speech but also to live with the offensive cartoons, he said.

“Muslims will support the right of the artists to do this,” he said, “but don’t expect them to support the contents of the cartoons.”

Geoffey Mock

JE SUIS CHARLIE

January 8th, 2015 | Posted by Sandrine Pauwels in HOME - (7 Comments)

Hommage aux victimes de l’attentat à Charlie Hebdo.

Nous sommes tous Français.

On est solidaire avec notre collègue- ami Philippe Lançon et toute l’équipe de Charlie-Hebdo.

je suis Charlie

                                                                                                             Cabu

 Rassemblement Place de la République:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCXRhR7sbJ8                                                              Photos credits: Gabriel Richard

TOURNEES begins again in 2015

January 5th, 2015 | Posted by Sandrine Pauwels in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

“Le Joli Mai” the experimental documentary on Paris, 1962, gives the Festival a fresh start on Monday, January 12.

For all details on the full program, consult the schedule under “Coming events”.

 The Lovely Month of May

Paris, spring 1962, sets the scene for this documentary of remarkable experimental energy.  With the Algerian war over, and the capital at peace after a generation, what were French men and women thinking?  Marker interviews dozens, from high-tech men dreaming skyscrapers to workers imagining what makes them happy; Lhomme shoots for the first time with a portable camera.  Together they create a portrait of their city in black and white, its currents of desire, new gadgets, political quandaries.   Restored fifty years after its release, this cult film captures a revolutionary feeling before May became 68.

aff joli mai

Flanders poppies

Poppies in Flanders, Belgium. Courtesy Tijl Vercaemer through Wikimedia Commons

The poppies were back out throughout Europe this week of Nov. 11 as countries marked Armistice Day, commemorating the official end of World War I at 11:11 on Nov. 11, 1918.

In this, the centennial year of the start of the war, 888,000 ceramic poppies were planted at the Tower of London to pay tribute to the war dead; in Flanders, a British group planted poppies outside the memorial near the Ypres battlefield.

Even Americans who can recite the poppies of “In Flanders Field” are often unfamiliar about the lasting consequences of World War I throughout Europe. Below, Helen Solterer and Domenico Cangiano talk about the effects of the Great War and the people who endured it in France and Italy.

Solterer is professor in the Department of Romance Studies. Cangiano is a Ph.D. candidate in the department.

 

Why go to war?

Helen Solterer:  The shock of your home invaded, the sting of defeat – there’s nothing more powerful that moves men and women to fight; in France, in the summer of 1914, the memory of the Germans taking over Alsace and Lorraine and besieging Paris was still fresh.  The government had only to talk of the country’s ‘sacred union’ for millions to pitch themselves into another battle with Germany.  Their battle fever was quickened by new technologies – especially the flying machines in the skies.  Think about that ‘adventure’: thousands of young pilots took off with little more than leather goggles as a uniform; only to discover all the disastrous consequences of aerial bombing.

 

Domenico Cangiano:  Italy joined the conflict in May 1915: the only country to debate the war, for and against, for 10 months; the only country too that switched sides, having been allied, since 1882, with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

On the eve of World War I, the Viennese chronicler Karl Krause warned that sometimes markets have to turn into battlefields to become markets again.  No doubt Italian industrialists wanted to compete with their former allies for the Balkans and Turkey. There were other ways intellectuals of the time narrated the conflict. The “Futurists” saw war as “the only hygiene of the world” while nationalists needed Italian territory to expand for the hundreds of thousands of emigrants who were abandoning the country.

 

What did soldiers and others in the war effort write about  – novels, poems, newspapers, diaries, letters?

Cangiano: Italian intellectuals prepared the ideological ground for the conflict. But the kind of literature supporting Italy’s intervention was defeated by the conflict itself. Ardengo Soffici’s “bullets as kisses,” or Marinetti’s “Zang Tumb Tumb,” could not survive the trenches and contact with ‘real people.’ During the war many authors came back to a kind of sentimental literature based on the myth of the Mother, the Field, the Wife, the House, and God.

 

The Futurist poet Aldo Palazzeschi stopped writing in 1916; and when he began again postwar, he dedicated his book to his old friends “who betrayed themselves and stoked the fire.”  Two Failed Empires treats the German Reich, as well as his own avant-garde circle, whose writing no longer made sense.

Solterer: Among the millions in France who wrote about the Western front, there were thousands who came from elsewhere.  Their literature represents as much of a world as the war.  Today we are rediscovering the Swiss volunteer, Blaise Cendrars.  He was ‘lucky’ enough to escape alive; and immediately wrote an account of his arm being amputated.  If he had any prosthesis at all, it was what he managed to write with his remaining hand, frenetic bursts of sentences that bring you face to face with a German soldier. “Me the poet, I understand reality; I acted, I murdered, like someone who wants to live.”  Cendrars punctured all the heroic talk of sacrificing for country by exposing the horrific necessity to kill to survive; and asking us to see the some 2 million dead on the Western front alone.

 

Why teach the Great War today?

Cangiano: A class on the Great War is a perfect way to show how those in power can use intellectuals — who are supposedly free — to build their own hegemonic discourse. The young Mussolini is emblematic: in his article at the time, The War as a Revolutionary Event, nationalist ideology starts to take the place of a socialist one. The war  — better even than peacetime – allows us to see how the fight for consensus works.  It also helps us to understand the ‘rules’ of peacetime — think about ‘discipline’ in the trenches and in factories.  I would call war a drug for societies scarred by class conflict, and a lab for new forms of mass control.

I also like teaching first person accounts of the conflict: the anonymous letters written from the front. Very often they’re love letters.   We have to remember that the majority of the infantrymen were illiterate, and so were the girls waiting for them in their hometowns. They needed someone to write for them, so often the love talk happened between a lieutenant at the front and a priest back home.

 

Solterer: Cendrars’ piece, “I Killed,” gave my students a jolt – even those who take for granted that killing is a daily happening on American streets.  Teaching about the experience and repercussions of warfare makes us all think, and think again.  I thought of the many military men and women in North Carolina.  Anyone who’s been down to the coast in the last several weeks knows the shuddering feeling of what locals call “the bombing” :  armament practice for the thousands being deployed right now.   A marine reminded me that every serviceman and woman transmits the memory of the past conflicts right back to Belleau Wood in France in 1917.  I wonder for how many more generations.

In my family, the memory of WWI took us by surprise one day back in the Seventies when my mother was cleaning out the attic.  She unearthed a moldy sweater, one my father admitted he had brought with him from Europe.  He was one of the teenagers on the Eastern Front who the Austro-Hungarian Empire sent up in a plane over the Adriatic.  Shot down, he made it out of the fiery crash; his gunner did not.  Out of that experience, he took his comrade’s sweater, one of the few possessions he carried with him from prisoner-of-war camp, through Indonesia, Cuba to America.

Fifty years after his first war, and two continents later, he was ready to throw it out.  I kept the story.  Telling it gives me a way to combat war, remembering the toll it took on these teenagers, my father’s fidelity to his friend.

 Background photo : Vincen-t:https://www.flickr.com/photos/marqueton/ https://flic.kr/p/6mDtcJ License:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

 

Geoffrey Mock

 

Durham, NCPatrick Modiano

Little known in the United States, Patrick Modiano, the 2014 Nobel Laureate in Literature, comes from a strong tradition of French intellectual writers. Born in just after the end of World War II to an actress mother and a father of Jewish origins, Modiano’s writings were heavily influenced by the period of Nazi occupation of France.

In some of his most famous books, Dora Bruder and Missing Person, he uses the war as a backdrop to explore the themes of memory and identity. In several, such as the film “Lacombe, Lucien,” which he co-wrote with director Louis Malle, Modiano forced French audiences to face the difficult truths of French cooperation with the Nazis.

Duke Professor Helen Solterer uses Modiano in her seminar on French literature. In an interview with Duke Today, Solterer explains his contribution to literature and to France. Solterer is director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies.

 

What has Modiano added to the literature of memory and identity??

Helen Solterer
Helen Solterer

Solterer: Patrick Modiano comes from the generation who grew up under the shadow of World War II, its repressed violence, its injustices still unresolved.  He also came of age as a writer with the freedom of the ’60s; his first novel appeared in 1968. Like the experimental writer Georges Perec or the artist Christian Boltanski, he’s committed enormous creative energy to puzzling through the German occupation of France that his own family survived.

The Nobel Prize has chosen to commend him for his art of memory, but I think Modiano’s fiction is remarkable because it shows readers how difficult, and deeply absorbing the process of remembering this period is. Long before the notion of traumatized memory took hold, Modiano was inventing plots that took us wandering through empty streets, with characters who had trouble making sense of what they had experienced. And Paris holds all the ‘fugitive pieces': it’s his place of memory, as for dozens of fellow-writers before him — Proust, Restif la Bretonne, Villon.

 

What role has he played in the French coming to terms with World War II

Solterer: Modiano explores the gamut of taboo characters in his writing  — the anti-Semitic Jew, Raphael Schlemilovitch, [la Place de l’Etoile], the farm boy Lucien who joins the Gestapo in the final throes of the war.  He did not shy away from imagining the ‘unheroic’ situations of those who lived or did not live through the war, especially young people.  All through the decades when France was reckoning with the Vichy regime and collaboration with the Nazis, he was bringing out a novel publishing one most every year, some 20 before the French government acknowledged, in 1995, responsibility for deportation of Jewish refugees and citizens.

His fiction certainly fed the public debate over Vichy France. There are other writers whose work better captures the struggle of looking back at this period, in writing that’s more richly experimental.  I wish Georges Perec had lived longer to get the Nobel Prize. But you’d be hard pressed to think of another writer whose novels gave thousands of readers in France, as elsewhere, a way to grapple imaginatively with the after effects of World War II.

 

What about his writing affects your students?

Solterer: Several generations of Duke students have cut their teeth on Modiano, including freshmen in the “French Difference” seminar, who started this semester reading the film scenario Lacombe Lucien (1977).  They found this farm-boy character disturbing, fascinating, a naïve guy their age, full of conflicted desires, whose relish for some small power blinded him to the consequences of taking up a gun against his own people.  A memorable character.

 

If someone wanted to explore Modiano, what book should they start with?

Solterer: With Dora Bruder (1997), Modiano takes the reader in search of this runaway Jewish girl during the first deportations in Paris. It’s eerie, stark and based on an actual case. After nearly 20 years, I am surprised when the story of her flight hits me again — when I’m walking down a street in Paris or when the news of the kidnapped Nigerian girls first broke.

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