Tag: Creative Writing

Bits of French where you least expect them

A momentary break from profiles of current and soon-to-be-former students just to say thank you to our Creative Writing colleagues at Stirling (French is part of the Division of Literature and Languages which is also home to Creative Writing) for organising the annual Fellows’ Lunch yesterday. I went along in between dissertation supervision, bookshelf tidying and various post-teaching admin tasks, looking forward to getting to hear our two Royal Literary Fund Fellows – Helen Grant and Linda Cracknell – and our Charles Wallace Fellow – Arjun Rajendran – reading from their work and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a really lovely way to spend a lunchbreak but made all the more pleasant by the surprise arrival of elements of French and French history via Arjun’s poems inspired by work he is doing on diaries from 18th century Pondicherry, one of which has made its way onto the windows of a corridor in our Pathfoot Building. So, thank you and merci!

 

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Strasbourg and more

Another week until the start of semester and these final few days before the new academic year are full of news to report. Usually, the bits of this blog that are written by me (Cristina Johnston) are written in Scotland but this post sees me making my way to Strasbourg where I’m headed for meetings with our colleagues at the Ecole de Management. We’ve had an exchange partnership with them for many years now and currently have a great Integrated Masters programme that we run with them in International Management and Intercultural Studies. As is the way with these things, most of the time that just means corresponding via email and it’s our students who benefit from being able to enjoy the delights of our respective institutions and cities. Every now and then, though, colleagues come from Strasbourg to Stirling or from Stirling to Strasbourg and that’s what I’m up to just now. A good day of meetings and discussions about possible future partnerships and teaching and research collaborations lies ahead, and I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see the EMS.

The added bonus – from my perspective, at least – is that I spent my own year abroad when I was an undergraduate as an English Language Assistant living and teaching in Strasbourg so it’s a city I used to know well. As those students who were away as ELAs last year make their way back to campus in Stirling, and some of those who are just starting on new adventures as assistants in places as far-flung as Colombia (watch this space for more…) send emails to say hello, it’s great to get a chance to reminisce on my own experiences as a Language Assistant. I taught at the Lycée Marie Curie in Strasbourg where – at the time, at least – they taught both the French Bac and the European Bac, meaning that one class of pupils in terminale had extra language tuition, History and Geography taught in English and an impressive openness to the possibilities that language learning opened up for them.

For me, it was a great first experience of teaching – I wasn’t much older than the pupils, they were (without exception) really keen to learn, and the school was incredibly supportive (of me and of their pupils). As well as the actual teaching, I was lucky enough to be asked to accompany that terminale class on a 10-day trip to Northern Ireland and was just generally made to feel part of the school community. I kept in touch with some of the pupils for a few years after I came back and, ever since then, have also kept in touch with one of the former English teachers from the school so this EMS trip will also give me a chance to catch up with her, having not actually seen her face-to-face in 20 years! All in all, a good trip lies ahead!

Enough about me, though… What other news? Well, Fiona Barclay and I had a great meeting last week with the ever-enthusiastic Grahame Reid of Stirling’s MacRobert cinema to talk about (fingers crossed) bringing some of this year’s French Film Festival films to Stirling again this year. All being well, November should be French cinema month at Stirling but more will follow on that once we get confirmation. French at Stirling has also been busy preparing workpacks for all the modules we’ll be running in the new semester and generally getting ourselves ready for all our new and returning students. And, at the end of this week, just before the focus shifts back more towards teaching, many of us will also be attending a Research Away Day led by Bill Marshall to discuss research plans and ideas with colleagues from Languages, Translation, Religion, English and Creative Writing. Oh yes, and our former PhD student Martin Verbeke has another article forthcoming: “Represent Your Origins: An Analysis of the Diatopic Determinants of Non-Standard Language Use in French Rap” has been accepted for publication by the International Journal of Francophone Studies!

A flurry of pre-semester activity! And pictures of Strasbourg will doubtless appear on the blog over the next week or so…

Last blog post for 2016

One final blog post before switching off for the holidays and a few bits and pieces to catch up with from end of semester activities. So, in no particular order…

Many congratulations to former French at Stirling PhD student Stefanie van de Peer whose edited collection Animation in the Middle East will be out very soon with IB Tauris and promises to be a great new addition to the field of Animation Studies. We’ll be ordering it for Stirling University Library, of course!

2016-xmas-stefanie-book-cover

And thanks to the group of French at Stirling undergraduates who found the time to go to Graeme High School in Falkirk to talk to pupils there about the opportunities that open up through the study of languages. Our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, organises our Student Ambassador scheme which, as he says, “relies entirely on the good will of students who, given the opportunity, are keen to share their love for languages. No-one is better placed to reach out to pupils who might never have considered pursuing with a language at school, or who might think that the sole purpose of studying a language is to become a teacher. We are very fortunate at Stirling to have a combination of volunteers that includes people with prolonged experience abroad and even native speakers. This is also the result of good relations and collaboration between the University and local authorities.” This visit to Graeme High follows on from an equally successful visit to Wallace High earlier in the semester and we were particularly pleased to get one of our visiting Erasmus students involved with the December visit.

Thanks also to the colleagues and postgrads who came along to Cristina Johnston and Charlotte Lange’s Study Day on crime fiction earlier in December, and to those who attended the public reading and Q&A the same evening with leading Scottish crime fiction author Craig Russell. The papers presented during the day included one by Cristina Johnston on the hit French crime series Engrenages and a paper by Charlotte Lange on Mexican crime novels, as well as contributions from our colleague in Creative Writing, Liam Bell, talking about Malta as crime scene in his next novel, Creative Writing PhD student Lorna Hill who spoke about invisible victims and Ailsa Peate (University of Liverpool) on Cuban crime fiction. Miriam Owen – a former postgrad on our Publishing Studies programme – was also on hand to screen her short documentary about the Iceland Noir book festival.

Plenty to look forward to in the Spring, too, with a visit from our colleague Lucie Herbreteau from Angers who will be teaching some classes on our final semester core language module while she is in Stirling. And we’re looking forward to welcoming back Bill Marshall after his semester’s research leave which has – most recently – included a plenary on ‘Queering Guyane’ at the ‘Imagining the Guyanas/Across the Disciplines’ conference hosted by the Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier III.

2016-bill-montpellier-bagne-dec

In the meantime, though, the University is about to close for the break and we wish you all de joyeuses fêtes!

From phonetics to creative writing: life as a lectrice

Since she graduated from her first degree in English Studies and French back in 2012, we’ve been pleased to get updates from French at Stirling graduate, Fiona Mears, on where her degree has taken her. As Fiona prepares to set off for a second year as a lectrice in France, we’ve asked her to tell us what life has been like in her first year in the job:

‘After working at a language school in Edinburgh over summer 2015, I embarked on my next adventure in France, this time as a lectrice at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon. Having taught teenagers in various educational settings, I felt ready for the new challenge of working with older students – at both undergrad and postgrad level – and teaching areas of language that I had never tackled before.

2016 Mears Lectrice photo I

I have enjoyed the opportunity to work across a range of modules, from oral expression and phonetics to creative writing and translation. Although daunting at first, creative writing ended up being one of the most enjoyable classes to teach. The primary guidelines were such: get them to write. The freedom to think outside the box allowed me to plan lessons which encouraged students to have fun with language and to really use their imagination. My students didn’t disappoint when it came to the latter, making for some interesting reading come marking time!

Never having studied it myself, phonetics proved more troublesome. The first weeks of my phonetics learning/teaching experience were spent being spoon-fed information and desperately hoping that students wouldn’t ask too many questions in class. But I soon got the hang of it and in the process learnt a valuable skill for any language teacher.

2016 Mears Lectrice photo II

As in all jobs, though, there were some tricky situations and system-related difficulties to navigate. Most of my gripes stem from the policy of not preselecting students, the direct outcome of which being that the attitude and behaviour of certain students is, to say the least, not what you would expect at higher education. Organisational anomalies can also prove frustrating, as can the infamous French bureaucracy. That said, the positive aspects of the job far outweigh the negatives, so much so that I jumped at the offer to return to the post for a second year beginning next month.

Never one to allow myself too much free time, I also worked for a local language school throughout the year teaching business English to professionals. I quickly discovered that going out to companies and working with adults in a non-educational context brings its own challenges and rewards, and provides a welcome change to the standard classroom environment. The one downside to being kept so busy is that I was unable to travel as much as I would have liked during the year, but there will be plenty time for that when I finish up next April. For now, I’m making the most of my last weeks in Scotland before heading back to France to pick up where I left off.’

We look forward to more updates (and some postcards…) from Fiona in the future and wish her all the best for her second year at UFC!

Delphine de Vigan

It’s not every day that a leading Scottish writer gives you a tip for a French author you might want to have a look at but that’s precisely what happened yesterday and it would seem daft not to pass on the recommendation! Janice Galloway, who is Visiting Professor of Creative Writing in the Division of Literature and Languages at Stirling, gave a great lecture on ‘Memoir and Fiction’ to students on the ‘Writing and Identity’ module coordinated by Scott Hames yesterday.
As well as talking about responses to memoir and the unreliability of the very notion of genre, she also happened to mention that anybody looking to read an excellent contemporary writer engaging with these areas should try French author Delphine de Vigan. We’ll be taking Janice’s advice and buying some of her work for the library!
Delphine de Vigan