Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy 21st Birthday, Andrea!

Over dessert at Thanksgiving dinner, we celebrated Andrea's birthday.  Joyeux anniversaire, Andrea!

Thanksgiving à la parisienne

Happy Thanksgiving to our friends and families!  We celebrated today at the Le Saint-Martin on Rue Louis Blanc in the 10th arrondissement with a traditional dinner of carrot soup, turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, cranberry sauce, pumpkin bread, and pie.  Not surprisingly, we were not the only Americans there!  Enjoying Thanksgiving abroad has been the topic of much American writing over the past decades.  This New York Times article on Thanksgivings abroad describes Art Buchwald's famous column on "Le Grande Thanksgiving" or le Jour de Merci Donnant

We were delighted to welcome visiting F&M student Michael Nolt to our Thanksgiving celebration!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Un Américain à Paris

In an unprecedented French-American coproduction, the musical "An American in Paris" debuts tomorrow in Paris before opening on Broadway next year.  Based on the famous 1951 film starring Gene Kelly, in turn inspired by George Gerschwin's 1928 symphony, this production, directed by the British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, stars Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope.  It will run at the 150-year-old Théâtre du Châtelet through January 4 before opening at the Palace Theatre in New York on March 13, 2015.  Last week our class received reviews of the 1951 film screened by our partners in CNX 117 Americans in Paris, taught by Professor Carrie Landfried.  We are looking forward to sharing our impressions once we see the show on December 9.  In the meantime, it has been heavily advertised in Paris and has been attracting significant media coverage, including a long story in this weekend's edition of Le Monde.

L'avenue des Champs-Elysées Illuminée

Yesterday we had our group dinner just off the Champs-Elysées so we could take in the light show that was inaugurated on "la plus belle avenue du monde" by the mayor last evening.  The City of Lights is now completely lit up and it is beautiful.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

France and America: The Love-Hate Relationship

Since one of our courses focuses on Franco-American relations, we were fortunate to attend an evening hosted by Boston University's Study Abroad program at the Fondation des Etats-Unis, an international student center located across from Parc Montsouris.  The Fondation, funded by Americans including John D. Rockefeller, Jr., has housed and supported international students since its opening in 1930.  It is part of the Cité international universitaire de Paris, founded after World War I in an effort to promote peace by facilitating international student exchange and education.  Recently renovated, the Fondation provided an ideal setting for the evening's program, a lecture by William Keylor, Professor of History and International Relations at Boston University's Pardee School of Global Studies, and a stand-up comedy routine by Sebastian Marx, both on the theme of Franco-American relations.

Professor Keylor, who was named Chevalier de L'Ordre National du Mérite by the French government, gave a presentation on "France and America: The Love-Hate (Mostly Love) Relationship of Four Centuries," highlighting the ups and downs of the two countries' relations since the French provided essential support for the American war of independence.  The only Western European country never to have fought against the United States, France is also the Western European country of greatest anti-Americanism.  At the same time, the United States has experienced waves of Francophobia, most recently in 2003, when French Fries were replaced by Freedom Fries in the three House of Representatives cafeterias.  Still, Professor Keylor suggested, more binds the two countries together than divides them, as four centuries of close relations make clear.

What divides them is often very funny, providing Sebastian Marx, a New Yorker who has lived in Paris for ten years, ready material to entertain a mixed French-American audience with stories of American adventures and misadventures in France.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Christmas Comes to Paris

Without Halloween or Thanksgiving to stem the tide, France begins to welcome Christmas without hesitation in early November.  Decorations have been going up this past week and are on full display at the "grands magasins," the famously elegant department stores along Boulevard Haussmann.  Yesterday, after a lovely walk along the Seine, we visited the Galeries Lafayette, which began designing its opulent Christmas display eight months ago.  All that is missing in Paris is Christmas weather!  Midst reports about snow at F&M, we continue to enjoy beautifully sunny and temperate days.

The department stores have all their window displays up for Christmas.

This is the interior of the Galeries Lafayette.

A Painful Episode from the Parisian Past

This week we studied the October 1961 massacre by the Parisian police of Algerians and French citizens of Algerian descent who were peacefully demonstrating during the Franco-Algerian war.  The massacre was only officially commemorated by the Parisian government in 2001, the product of a process of reclaiming historical memory after decades of "organized forgetting" that involved censorship and silence, including concerning the role of Police Prefect Maurice Papon.  Papon, who was convicted in 1998 of complicity with Nazi crimes against humanity for his role as a Vichy official in the Holocaust, authorized the attacks on demonstrators in 1961 that led to the deaths of hundreds.  On the fortieth anniversary of the massacre, Parisian Mayor Betrand Delanoë installed a plaque on the Pont Saint-Michel, one of the major sites of the deadly assaults, just a block from the Notre Dame cathedral and across the bridge from the Fontaine Saint-Michel.  After the ceremony, Delanoë explained, "There are parts of Paris’s history which are painful, but which have to be talked about and which have to be accompanied by acts."  Visiting the plaque was our site excursion this week.

In 2010, Radio France Internationale produced this piece in English about the massacres:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Group Projects on Franco-American Debates

In our class on European-American perceptions and misperceptions (HIS/IST 274), we will conclude the semester with staged debates on topics typically seen as dividing France and the United States.  Each pair of students is investigating an issue from both the American and French perspectives.  In class this week, the pairs presented their initial findings and approaches in order to solicit feedback and gather suggestions.  We are very much looking forward to the formal Franco-American debates in December!

Renee and Tessla are focused on the competing traditions and
practices of French and American feminism.

Hannah and Caroline are investigating immigration 
in France and the United States.

Annie and Andrea are looking at divergent French 
and American cultures and practices of business.

Kianna and Meredith are debating laws 
on gun control in France and the United States.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day

Armistice Day had special resonance in France this year as Europe commemorates the centenary of the beginning of the First World War.  In Paris, ceremonies began at 9:00 a.m. with the laying of wreaths at the memorial to students arrested by the occupying Germans for marching on the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe on November 11, 1940.

At 10:00 a.m. wreaths were laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arc de Triomphe.

At 11:00 a.m. President François Hollande led a ceremony of national commemoration at the Arc de Triomphe.

In the afternoon, President Hollande inaugurated the ring of memory, a new international memorial at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in Pas-de-Calais listing the names of almost 600,000 soldiers who died on the battlefields of Flanders and Artois during the First World War.  In Paris, dignitaries from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Poland, Russian, Spain, and Slovakia joined Parisian city officials in paying homage to foreign soldiers who died fighting for France.  The ceremony took place in Paris' largest and most famous cemetery, Le Père Lachaise, a stunningly beautiful park that is home to graves of such luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Max Ernst, Gertrude Stein, Maria Callas, and Alexandre Ledru-Rollin (about whom we posted earlier).

Throughout the day, people donned bleuets, the French symbol of commemoration of the First World War.  The blue flower was among the few to bloom in the muddy trenches, and matched the color of the French soldiers' uniforms.

Another rare flower to bloom in the trenches was the red poppy, symbol of war commemoration in Britain and Canada as inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields."  This year, some four million visitors to the Tower of London have viewed "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red," the outdoor installation of over 800,000 ceramic poppies, each symbolizing a soldier's death in World War I.