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 VOL. 23, NO. 19APRIL 3, 1998 

Acclaimed Novelist to Head New Francophone Center


Maryse Condé

Maryse Condé, the acclaimed Francophone novelist, playwright and professor at Columbia, will direct a new academic center for the study of French-speaking cultures worldwide, including those in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and North America.

  “The Center is a broad impulse to study the cultures of people who speak French but who are not French,” said Condé, a native of Guadeloupe and author of epic works of historical fiction, written in French and set largely in Africa. She has written six plays, nine novels and edited several anthologies of Francophone Caribbean and African literature. Many of her books have been translated, including La Migration des coeurs issued this month as Windward Heights by Faber and Faber in London.

  Condé said the new Center for French and Francophone Studies at Columbia will focus on interdisciplinary scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. A conference is planned for next Nov. 21 on the written and oral traditions in French-language literature, with presentations by scholars of Francophone literature in Africa and the Caribbean.

  In addition to the department of French and Romance philology, several Columbia academic departments and institutes will be represented in the new center’s work, including art history, film studies, history, political science, sociology, the Institute on Western Europe and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

  The center, which will be closely associated with the French department and will have its home in Maison Française, also will provide academic guidance to a new undergraduate major in French and Francophone Studies. In addition, the center will coordinate and promote lectures and conferences at Maison Française on French culture and the Francophone diaspora in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, North and Subsaharan Africa and the West Indies.

  “The center does not signal the start of a new discipline or academic specialty,” said Pierre Force, chairman of the French department, “but rather a space where scholars from various disciplines will engage in broad discussion about French and Francophone culture. We are exceptionally lucky at Columbia to have one of the world’s foremost Francophone writers to lead this effort.” Force said topics that may be addressed include language laws in Quebec, conceptions of citizenship and the welfare state in France, politics in Vietnam and the literature of the French West Indies.

  Born in Pointe-à-Pitre, Condé was educated on Guadeloupe and in France and earned the Ph.D. from the Sorbonne. She has lived in Africa and France.