Dec. 9, 1993
Vol. 13, No. 8

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    Workshop evolves into multidisciplinary group in French s

    This quarter marks the debut of the Chicago Group on Modern France (CGMF) -- a multidisciplinary research group in French studies at the University.

    The purpose of the CGMF is twofold: first, to bring together faculty and students from all the different domains of French studies -- in the humanities and the social sciences alike -- without regard for conventional disciplinary boundaries; and second, to serve as a point of contact between North American scholars and their French colleagues, both by inviting French scholars to Chicago and by facilitating graduate-student exchanges with French institutions.

    The establishment of the CGMF has been made possible by a grant from the French government, which named the University one of five "Centres d'Excellence" in the United States, along with Harvard, Princeton, Johns Hopkins and Berkeley. The Chicago Group also has received financial support from the American National Can Company.

    The CGMF is directed by four faculty members: Jan Goldstein, Professor in History; Colin Lucas, Dean of the Social Sciences Division and Professor in History; Robert Morrissey, Associate Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures; and Martha Ward, Associate Professor in Art.

    "The idea of the Chicago Group on Modern France is to create a new, intense kind of dialogue about modern French culture at a time when Europe itself is forging a new identity," Morrissey said.

    "To some extent, America has turned away from Europe," Lucas said. "This is one way of presenting within the University the range of activities and studies going on in a Europe-oriented France, as well as creating outside the University a better public understanding of how these activities have an impact on society in general."

    The CGMF grew out of the Workshop on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Modern France, which has been in existence since the 1991-92 academic year. Like other graduate workshops at Chicago, the Workshop on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Modern France provides a forum in which faculty members and advanced graduate students can present their work and an opportunity to hear speakers from outside the University.

    At the same time that the workshop was developing, the French government was seeking to concentrate and develop further its own U.S.-based cultural programs at several high-level academic institutions. The workshop was asked to submit a proposal and was named a Centre d'Excellence, which allowed it to expand its work significantly as well as to reach out to other academic and research institutions in the Chicago area.

    In addition to continuing the Workshop on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Modern France, the CGMF is supporting a series of public conferences and a series of visiting scholars who will be actively involved in teaching during their time at Chicago.

    For 1993-94, visiting scholars will include Philippe Roger, senior fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and a specialist in 18th-century literature and political thought, and Daniel Defert, a sociologist at the University of Paris and an expert on and activist in the AIDS awareness movement in France.

    The first conference, "The French Museum and Its Publics," a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Louvre Museum, took place on Dec. 4 and was co-sponsored by the Alliance Francaise. Additional conferences are being planned.

    In addition to financial support from the French government, contributions from the American National Can Company and its president, Jean-Pierre Ergas, have allowed the CGMF recently to establish two annual grants for student research in France.

    "In a time of economic austerity, when some traditional sources of funding for doctoral research in France are drying up, it is important to try to locate new sources of fellowship support for our students," Goldstein said.

    The first American National Can Fellowship for yearlong study has been awarded to Katie Crawford, a graduate student in history, and the first American National Can Scholarship for summer research has been awarded to Elisa Camiscioli, also a graduate student in history.

    News of upcoming activities sponsored by the CGMF will be included in the group's quarterly newsletter. To receive a copy, call 702-8790.