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20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium Set For March 29-31

Published: March 15, 2012

The 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium, co-organized by Romance, German, and Russian Languages and Literatures’ (RGRLL) Laura Ceia and Aparna Nayak, will take place at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Long Beach on March 29-31, under the theme “Crossing, Frictions, Fusions.”

“This is the highest forum for scholars in 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone studies within the Americas,” said Ceia, who joined the university in 2006. “CSULB is one of the very few, if not the first public university, to host this conference.”

The colloquium will feature plenary lectures by UCLA writer Alain Mabanckou, winner of the 2006 Prix Renaudot, and Boston University’s Odile Cazenave. More than 375 researchers and graduate students are expected to attend from around the globe. Nayak points out attendance by scholars from 20 nations such as Japan, South Africa, Australia, Poland and Finland, in addition to the U.S., UK and France, which habitually bring the most participants. “It’s really exciting,” she said. CSULB faculty, students and alumni also will present.

The event is made possible through the support of the Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts, the University Library, RGRLL, the College of Continuing and Professional Education, and the French Consulate in Los Angeles through the French Embassy’s Higher Education, Arts, French Language program.

“The theme means what it says but it also means a lot more,” said Nayak, who also joined the university in 2006. “It can mean the crossing of oceans or borders, as well as the crossing of ideas, including the struggles and transformations these crossings engender.”

It is a theme that appeals to our contemporary context, according to Ceia.

“It talks about the movement of ideas but also the themes of immigration and migration. What happens when cultures come into contact with each other? I believe this concept speaks particularly to our institution,” she said. “CSULB is a very diverse university. Students come from very different cultures. They speak one language at home and speak another at school, and sometimes a third or fourth in our classrooms. We have people from different cultural backgrounds sitting next to each other in our classes. They negotiate ways in which they can all co-exist harmoniously. That is one goal of the colloquium.”

Nayak and Ceia praised their plenary speakers. Mabanckou is the first Francophone sub-Saharan African writer to be published by Gallimard in its prestigious collection “La Blanche.” Cazenave’s research interests focus on the impact of age, gender and location on the writing and reception of post-colonial literary and filmic narratives in French.

The colloquium also weighs in on the field’s current debate over whether Francophone literature ought to be called “Francophone literature” or “world literature in French?” To close the conference, a round table featuring scholars from the University of Liverpool, Northeastern University, University of Pennsylvania and University of Connecticut will sum up the issue. “These people are at the top of their fields and we will have them all here,” said Nayak.

Ceia points out what a great opportunity it is for CSULB students to read articles by these scholars then meet them.

“I teach a class this semester with the same title as the colloquium. Students read contemporary Francophone novels as well as articles on the Francophone literature debate that include many of the names they will see at the colloquium,” Ceia said. “Usually when we teach literature, we often teach mostly novelists that have passed away. At the colloquium, our students will have the opportunity to meet at least one of the authors they studied during the semester.”

20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium

The colloquium will debut the Lawrence R. Schehr Memorial Award and a new annual prize, the “Recherché au présent” award. The Schehr honors a French studies scholar who passed away in 2011 and served as editor of the prestigious journal Contemporary French Civilization. The “Recherché au present” award recognizes innovative doctoral research that advances scholarship and engages with important contemporary debates.

Ceia and Nayak are proud not only of their students’ participation but the originality of their research including a paper by graduate students Matthew Gervase, which links mid-19th century French poetry to modern video games.

“It may be ground-breaking research,” said Nayak. “This conference also serves as a showcase for our students. Three current students will present—Matthew Gervase, Jesse Garcia and Arpine Vardazaryan—and a RGRLL alum, Nicolas Bordage, who is working on his Ph.D. at the University of Miami and will return to present at this colloquium.”

Ceia praised the department’s connection to the French Consulate. “We have a very good relationship,” said Ceia. “We collaborate with the consulate to invite writers to our campus. There is an ongoing link. They recognize the importance of this conference. They recognize a lot of good things happen at Cal State Long Beach.”

Nayak is pleased by the attention coming to the department in light of the colloquium.

“Traditionally, when people talk about French studies in Southern California, they say USC or UCLA,” she said. “Meanwhile, we have consistently proven that we have a thriving graduate program in French. This conference strongly reinforces that.”

To Ceia, the event also spells “recognition.”

“This colloquium confirms this department is capable of good work,” she said. “The students have a wonderful opportunity to attend panels and meet people. But even more so, it is a chance just to listen and open their minds to different ideas and other ways of thinking. That’s the main goal of this conference, to foster dialogue. Besides, these things never end when the conference is over. This colloquium opens the way to more dialogue, more reflection and more writing. Conferences like these represent the first step in many ground-breaking scholarly projects.”

For additional information, visit the colloquium website.

–Richard Manly