The timing couldn’t have been better: as she was finishing the syllabus of her French literature course, “Circus Freaks and Bad Mothers,” centering on depictions of monsters in the 19th-century, Visiting Assistant Professor Julie Hugonny received a call for papers for the 2017 Institute of Nineteenth-Century Studies conference titled Odd bodies. “When I saw the subject of the conference, I just knew I had to take my students there,” she recalls. It was a match made in heaven.
After securing funding from the Charles Center and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and coordinating her group’s arrival with the organizers of the INCS conference, she advertised the weekend-long trip to her students, and set to take nine of them on this particular adventure.
The FREN 392 literature course she taught featured classic works of literature such as La Belle et la Bête by Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont, La Mère au Monstres by Guy de Maupassant, L’Homme qui rit by Victor Hugo’s, Les Diaboliques by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, as well as theoretic articles on disability, perception and exclusion. The students were thus well prepared for attending a conference that boasted subjects like “ugly bodies”, “queer bodies”, “prosthetics”, “circus and freak show bodies”, as well as the more ominous “bodies behaving badly” and “dead bodies.”
Armed with fresh knowledge and a boundless curiosity, the students attended panels of their choosing and eagerly participated in the follow-up discussions. Each had taken the class for different reasons, some of them simply loved literature, some others came from a disability studies viewpoint or a background of postcolonial studies. At the conference, the range of panels addressed a multitude of subjects and amply rewarded all those penchants. In fact, the students’ only complaint at the end of the day was that, since the panels were simultaneous, they couldn’t attend them all and had to make tough choices.
Since the conference was taking place in Philadelphia, a visit to the Mütter Museum of medical oddities seemed a necessary step. This cabinet of curiosities, housed in the college of Physicians, features among other wonders, a life-size molding of Cheng and Eng, the original Siamese twins, the skeleton of a woman’s whose corset had reduced her ribcage to a life-threatening degree, and a wall of skulls, each labeled with the origin, gender and cause of death of its owner. Beyond its obvious entertainment value, the Museum presented the dominant discourse of the time and vividly illustrated the pathologization of deviancy from the norm, the very approach to bodily difference the conference endeavored to question.
The trip to Philadelphia was a success: the students went back to their readings (homework doesn’t wait for William & Mary students!) with a keener understanding of the historical and cultural context of the 19th-century as well as on the view of monstrosity prevailing at the time. More importantly, they acquired the literary strategies to examine, analyze and challenge this normative discourse.
Since I was a child, I’ve always been interested in the role of food in contributing to a culture’s shared identity and sense of community. My interest in cuisine stems primarily from my family background because my parents have worked in the food service industry my entire life, and they used to run their own coffee shop. Seeing their hard work at their shop instilled in me a respect for small business owners and their ability to establish relationships with customers through personalized service and simple food and drink.
For my project last summer, I decided to investigate a small aspect of the culture in Montpellier by researching and sampling local foods created and sold within the Langeudoc-Roussillon region where Montpellier is located. My goal was to better understand the character of the region by investigating the goods that are important there. I also interviewed James Egreteau, the owner of Le Panier d’Aimé, which is a small business in Montpellier that sells locally produced food and drink. By tasting regional products, such as spreads, oils, and wines, and learning about Mr. Egreteau’s growing business, I was able to explore a facet of the culture in Montpellier from a local’s perspective. Locally sourced foods, like those sold at Le Panier d’Aimé, are a way for tourists and younger generations to connect to the rich agricultural history and traditions of the South of France.
Food can sometimes be taken for granted because it’s easy to purchase and consume food without thinking too much about where it comes from and who produces it. However, my experience in Montpellier reinforced the idea that food is a powerful way to connect with others and learn about an area’s history and personality.
- Ellery Lea
Every year the French & Francophone Studies program organizes a lively conference to showcase student research. The Fête de la Recherche is both a moment of intellectual exchange, and a sociable event with music, fun stories, and good food. The students deliver presentations entirely in French, and answer questions about the process of doing research abroad and in a foreign language. They often present drafts of an ongoing honors thesis, as well as papers written in connection with recent internships in Paris or Bruxelles. Others share the independent research they did while studying abroad in Montpellier. For the first time, the 2012 Fête de la Recherche will also feature a conversation with recent alumnae who will talk about the value of the French & Francophone Studies major even after graduation. The third annual “Fête de la recherche” in French and Francophone Studies will take place on Saturday, November 10th. Come meet Students who will share information about their past or ongoing research projects in French and Francophone Studies, and learn about the challenges and rewards which come with such projects.
alumnae Eve Grice (McCormack-Reboussin 2009), and Laura Wagstaff (McCormack-Reboussin 2007-09) will come to discuss how the skills they acquired as French and Francophone majors/minors help them in their professional lives.
Catherine Lipper, who studied with IFE in the Spring will talk about “Bruxelles: une ville au centre des relations internationales”
Kayla Grant, will present her research on French nineteenth century literature: “L’être dans la lettre: l’épistolaire et le roman psychologique à la fin du 19eme siècle”
Elisabeth Bloxam, will share her personal research about her French grandmother :”La Deuxième Guerre Mondiale: l’histoire de ma grand-mère”
Emma Dammon, who did the Summer Montpellier program will present her work on string instrument craftsmanship in the city: “Les Luthiers à Montpellier”
and Elizabeth Gohn will also present the research project she conducted in Montpellier this past summer: “Arènes de Nîmes: contemporanéité d’un monument antique.”
Come have breakfast with, listen to music and have some interesting discussions with our students.
When? : Saturday November 10th. 9am-12pm.
Where? : Room 101, Andrews Hall 605 Jamestown Rd Williamsburg, VA 23185
Thursday 4th, October at 3:30pm in Washington 315
Throughout the eighteenth century, trees stood at the intersection of numerous and often competing discourses of value. Across Europe and North America, they were viewed both as precious commodities and as ‘the true monuments of nations’, as Bernardin de Saint-Pierre noted in 1784,underscoring the imposing and inescapable materiality of these plants, their cultural significance, and their political value in the project of modern nation-building.
Trees could also be appreciated as charismatic objects of personal desire and of intellectual fascination, just as they were at the heart of Enlightenment discussions on environmental management and sustainability.
Students of French & Francophone studies have done original research for years. In order to recognize students who embarked in such projects and inspire other students to do the same, the French & Francophone studies section decided to create an annual Student research conference in 2010. In this video interview, Stephanie Kumah, a senior (French & Francophone/Government) who presented her ongoing Honor’s Thesis at the Fete speaks to Prof. Magali Compan about her project.
Our second annual French & Francophone Studies research conference took place on Saturday, Nov. 12, and featured five twenty-minute formal presentations and five poster sessions, all in French, by students who are doing, or who have just completed, original research on French and Francophone topics.
Some of the projects were honors theses in progress; others were research papers related to student internships in Paris; and the poster sessions were the result of our 2011 study abroad program in Montpellier, France. Our students enrolled in advanced French & Francophone classes were all in attendance, and the seniors did a great job introducing the speakers before each presentation.
The event also featured lots of good food and Francophone music, so that the atmosphere was festive and social. Our objective, after all, was for students to get to know each other, to share their experiences, and to learn from each other. The Fête was meant to be inspirational, and we certainly were impressed by the students’ projects and archival research, as well as by their exceptional confidence in speaking in a foreign language before such a large audience.
The event was kindly sponsored by the Charles Center and the Reves Center for International Studies.