Tag: Hannah Grayson

Languages and Career Stories

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories AllAs Laura and Michael noted in their post yesterday, it can be really helpful for secondary school pupils to get a sense of the opportunities that studying Languages at University can open up by actually getting a chance to meet Languages students and ask them questions. The same can be said of those Languages students themselves and the benefits that can come from listening to Languages graduates, at different stages post-graduation, talking about the different paths their lives have followed and the ways in which languages have shaped those paths. With that in mind, Hannah Grayson, who coordinates our Languages for Employability module this academic year, organised just such an event for our undergraduates last month:

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Sam‘On Thursday 7 November, we organised ‘Career Stories’, an event aimed at our Year 3 students taking the Languages for Employability module as part of their degree programme and any other students interested in hearing more about where languages can take you. We had three former Stirling students come to speak about their semesters/years abroad and the trajectories they have taken since leaving Stirling. The speakers were Sam Philips (Languages teacher at Bo’Ness Academy), Luise Pawlig (freelance translator) and Fraser McQueen (current PhD student at Stirling) and they shared experiences of working in tourism, au-pairing, customer service, translation, teaching and parliament.

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Luise

It was a fantastic opportunity for our students to hear about their experiences and to get advice on how to meet some of the challenges that intercultural experiences can bring. These events are made by the anecdotes and enthusiasm of those who share, and we couldn’t have asked for more from our speakers. All three of them encouraged students to go abroad whenever the opportunity arises!

2019 Dec Languages and Career Stories Fraser

We also heard from Lena Bauchop, our Careers and Employability consultant who has delivered teaching on the module and is herself a languages graduate. Lena explained her own career path and shared helpful insights into what can influence job decisions. There were plenty of questions for our visiting speakers and lots of conversation and networking afterwards over refreshments. Thanks to all involved!’

And many thanks to Hannah for making the time to send through this blog post and for organising the event.

Articles, Books and Conferences

As well as launching language websites and giving introductions to films, French at Stirling colleagues and students have been up to all sorts of French-related activities over recent weeks. More on some of these will doubtless follow in due course but, by way of a quick overview…

Anyone with an interest in contemporary French politics and society should look out for Fiona Barclay’s article ‘French citizenship campaigners may find acceptance depends on far more than official papers’ published online in The Conversation in early October. Fiona also gave a talk at the Alliance française in Glasgow on 5th November about the French settlers of Algeria which included a local pied-noir amongst the attendees.

Fiona and Beatrice’s Ivey’s MOOC ‘Remembering Empire’ is coming to the end of its first run with around 350 people registered at the last count. The MOOC will be left open for new participants to join and will remain live until April so it’s not too late to sign up!

Next week will see a fine Stirling contingent giving papers on a wide range of topics at the annual Society for French Postcolonial Studies conference in London. This year’s conference theme is ‘Postcolonial Realms of Memory in the Francophone World.’ Fiona and Beatrice are both giving papers as part of a panel on ‘Memories of Algeria’, along with Susan Ireland of Grinnell College. Fiona’s paper is on ‘Fraternity in French Algeria: (post-)colonial conceptions of republican citizenry’, while Beatrice will be talking about ‘Ahmed Kalouaz, Childhood and Colonial Memory in Ecriture Jeunesse.’ Fraser McQueen is the third member of the Stirling cohort, with his paper on ‘Memories of Empire in France’s Literary Grands Remplacements.’

2019 Nov Rwanda since 1994 Hannah coverHannah Grayson has two co-edited volumes that have come out over the past few months: Rwanda since 1994: Stories of Change published by Liverpool University Press and After the Genocide in Rwanda: Testimonies of Violence, Change and Reconciliation with IB Tauris. And to return to the online publication The Conversation, our French and Translation colleague, Aedín ní Loingsigh is one of the co-authors of this fantastic article on bilingualism and dementia: ‘Bilingualism and dementia: how some patients lose their second language and rediscover their first.’ Aedín’s co-authors are Ingeborg Birnie (Strathclyde), Thomas Bak (Edinburgh) and our former Stirling colleague, David Murphy (Strathclyde).

More news to follow!

Schools Day Success

As regular blog readers will know, this week the time had finally come for our Languages event for S5 and S6 pupils from schools from all across Scotland. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we welcomed a total of around 300 pupils to the Pathfoot Building and colleagues from French & Francophone Studies and Spanish & Latin American Studies led them through a day of mini lectures, culture and language classes, CPD sessions for the teachers and a series of presentations by current and former students, as well as our Faculty Employability Officer, on the benefits of time abroad as part of a degree (whether within Europe with Erasmus+ or well beyond), English Language Assistantships and the many, many doors that languages open up in the wider world beyond University.

davAfter a brief welcome from the Faculty Dean Richard Oram, and the event organisers, Pete Baker and Cristina Johnston, the pupils were split between French and Spanish activities for a short opening lecture and then for the classroom activities. Those doing French enjoyed a lecture on ‘Race, Religion and the Republic’ by Aedín ní Loingsigh before heading off into smaller groups for culture classes examining extracts from Autour il y a les arbres et le ciel magnifique led by Cristina Johnston, Emeline Morin, Aedín ní Loingsigh, Elizabeth Ezra, Hannah Grayson and Beatrice Ivey. At the same time, those doing Spanish enjoyed Pete Baker’s lecture on Frida Kahlo and further discussion of Kahlo’s work in culture classes led by Pete and his colleagues Inés Ordiz and Ann Davies.

After lunch, it was back into the classrooms for some written language and listening work, led by Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau, Fraser McQueen and Cristina, Emeline and Aedín for French, and Jose Ferreira-Cayuela, along with Pete and Inés for Spanish. And while the pupils were hard at work in their culture and language classes, their teachers were being led through CPD activities focusing on feedback and assessment, as well as the challenges that arise in the transition from secondary to HE, by Emeline and Aedín. The CPD sessions also included an opportunity for the teachers to benefit from a guided tour of the AHRC-funded Experiences of Exile exhibition by Beatrice Ivey.

All the pupils and teachers were brought together for the final session which included presentations by a group of Languages graduates, as well as current students at different stages in their degrees, and our Employability Officer, Elaine Watson. They all spoke passionately about their experiences of Study Abroad, teaching English as a Language Assistant, travelling during time abroad, career paths they have embarked on or are considering as a result of having studied a language and, in the words of Meg, one of the speakers, the confidence that comes from knowing that ‘if you can navigate France through train, plane and University strikes, you can do anything!’

2019 ASMCF Logo IIAll in all, a great chance for us to get to talk to a fantastic group of pupils and teachers, and an opportunity for those pupils, in particular, to get a real taste of what University and Languages at University is like and where it can lead you. Many thanks to all those who came along, to all the colleagues who led sessions over the course of the two days, to the students and graduates who gave up their time (and sent photos!) to come and speak to our visitors, and to the Division of Literature and Languages and the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France for their support.

Welcome to Nina Parish!

Over the past 6 months or so, we’ve been able to report on a whole series of fantastic new appointments to French at Stirling starting with Beatrice Ivey, then Emeline Morin, then Aedín ní Loingsigh and finally Hannah Grayson who took up her post at the start of this year. And it’s with great delight that we get to welcome another new colleague in the shape of Nina Parish who will be joining us as Chair in French at the start of July. Nina is currently at the University of Bath and her research expertise encompasses representations of the migrant experience, difficult history and multilingualism within the museum space. She was part of the EU-funded Horizon 2020 UNREST team working on innovative memory practices in sites of trauma including war museums and mass graves. She is also an expert on the interaction between text and image in the field of modern and contemporary French Studies. She has published widely on this subject, in particular, on the poet and visual artist, Henri Michaux.

Our students will get their first chance to meet Nina in the Autumn semester and we’re all very much looking forward to working with her and doubtless gently persuading her to write a few blog posts along the way…

Conferences and ‘To-Read’ Lists

Next up in today’s blog catch-up, I’m delighted to have our first post by Hannah Grayson who joined us as a Lecturer in French at the start of this year, focusing on her research trip to the States earlier this semester:

‘Back in March I was lucky enough to be in the USA for two academic conferences. My first stop was Washington, DC, where the American Comparative Literature Association was hosting its annual meeting at Georgetown University.

Unlike a lot of conferences, the ACLA has a distinctive structure where seminar groups of 10-12 people meet for two hours each day over three days in order to foster extended discussion. I would definitely choose to participate in this kind of structure again, as it allowed us lots of time to develop our conversations and draw links between papers. Our seminar stream, organised my colleague Eloise Brezault from St Lawrence University and myself, was titled ‘Responding to Violence: Hierarchies of Memorialization in Postcolonial Africa’. Our aim was to explore why certain instances of violence take precedence over others in terms of historicization, and how literary/cultural texts can both reorient historiographical trends and provide new lenses for revisiting historical moments. Among other things, we discussed the use of digital technology to tell stories in new ways, and different forms of responding to the silencing of history.

Our Stirling colleague Fiona Barclay presented research on the contested memorialisation of the massacre that took place on 26th March 1962 in Algiers from her current project. My own paper ‘Responding to Ebola’ was on En compagnie des hommes, a recent novel by Véronique Tadjo who is one of the authors studied at Stirling in the option module French and Francophone Cultures of Travel. I discussed Tadjo’s itinerant writing, and her critique of political responses to the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic. There was also plenty of time to attend other sessions, and I followed a fascinating seminar stream on injustice and witnessing. On the final evening, the keynote address was given by prize-winning author, Amitav Ghosh, who spoke to us about the challenges of representing polyglot societies in what he described as the essentially monolingual form of the novel.

2019 HG US Trip Pic 1With a few days to spare I took the opportunity to visit the Library of Congress, which is the largest library in the world. Though I was mainly marking first-year commentaries, it was also a great opportunity to read some new material on Tierno Monénembo, a francophone Guinean author whose writing was at the heart of my doctoral research. I also got to see the Lincoln Memorial and the White House, but will have to plan a return trip to make the most of Washington’s amazing collection of museums.

 

The next stop was Oklahoma City: a place, according to those I asked in DC, known for being totally flat, extremely windy, and not much else! Oklahoma City certainly isn’t known for being a centre of interest for scholars of French and Francophone literature, but it is there that we gathered for the annual 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Colloquium. I presented on Tadjo again, but this time on a panel about the suffering body: ‘Corps en souffrance: s’adapter et survivre face à la maladie’. It was great to discuss the place of illness and mourning, and the position of the patient, in literary texts by René Allendry, Maëlys de Kerangal and Emmanuèle Bernheim.

The theme of the conference, ‘Catastrophes, Cataclysms, Adaptation & Survival’, had caught my eye because of my research interest in fictional representations of crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. Where the majority of papers were based on texts from metropolitan France, those from the wider francophone world particularly interested me and I’ve now added Edgar Sekloka’s Coffee and Failles by Yannick Lahens to my to-read list for this summer. Stirling students who take the French Atlantic Slave Trade module would have especially enjoyed Fabienne Kanor’s presentation on the process of writing her novel Humus, which tells the stories of 14 female slaves who in 1774 chose suicide in the Atlantic rather than a life of slavery. She spoke about the journeys she made from archives in Nantes to Badagry, Nigeria, and her process of writing those 14 voices, always keeping the sounds of the sea present in the text, and asking herself, “comment témoigner à leur place de cette catastrophe?”

On the final day of the conference I made my way through a huge St Patrick’s Day parade to the Oklahoma City national memorial and museum. Having discussed the filmic and literary representations of so many episodes of violence in the two conferences, it was very moving to walk around the monument to the 168 lives lost in the domestic terror attack of April 1995. I spoke with staff there about the process of designing the memorial, the decision to have an empty chair for each of the lives lost, and the presence of an elm tree which remarkably survived the blast and all the destruction that followed. I was also reminded of research I’ve done in Rwanda around how museums, monuments, fiction and testimony all contribute to building a memory landscape in the wake of the Genocide against the Tutsi of 1994. But perhaps that’s something for a future blogpost!

All in all it was a great trip, and I came back to Scotland with a huge to-read list, and lots of ideas to follow up.’

2019 HG US Trip Pic 2

2019 HG US Trip Pic 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many, many thanks to Hannah for this article and we’ve taken careful (and grateful!) note of the promise of future ones!

Why study Languages?

I’m sure many of you will have seen or heard coverage this week of a BBC survey looking at the drop in the uptake of languages at secondary school level across the UK. If you didn’t, there’s plenty to read about it here and elsewhere.

This is, of course, a source of great concern for all of us working in Languages at whatever level within the education system and the reporting prompted us at Stirling to ask some questions, of ourselves and of our students, about our own experiences of language learning and what motivated us (or didn’t) to keep going with a particular language. Emails went out to all our students and to all colleagues, and the responses have been fascinating, as well as being funny, impassioned, thoughtful, concerned… and many other things besides. So, what better reason for a blog post? Or several!

What I’d like to do here, to start with, is to gather together the responses that have come in from colleagues, ie from those of us who teach French at Stirling, and there’ll then be a few blog posts from our students. The questions, though, are the same for all of us, as for the students namely: at what age did you start learning a language that wasn’t your native language? What language was it? What made you continue learning it (if you did)? And if that language wasn’t French, at what age did you start learning that and why and why did you decide to study it at University? And, finally, are there other languages you have previously studied but stopped studying and, if so, which ones and why?

And this time, if you’ll forgive the indulgence, I’ll start with my own experience… So, I’m Cristina Johnston and I’m currently Programme Director for French at Stirling and I started studying French at secondary school, in first year. However, before I started learning French, I was very lucky because I had already been exposed to Italian as my mother (and half my family) come from Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland. I spent school holidays in Switzerland, with my grandmother and family there, and many of them (most of them, at the time) didn’t speak any English but spoke either Italian or the dialect of Ticino, so if I wanted to communicate with them, I just had to speak Italian.

So, when I got to first year of secondary school and French classes started (there was no alternative to French for pupils in first year in my school), although it was a new language and a new accent and new words and new ideas, it somehow already felt familiar to me. I could understand bits and pieces from the first lesson when – as I still vividly recall – our fantastic teacher, Mr Prosser (with whom I’m still in touch every now and then so many years on), appeared and insisted on speaking French and on us speaking French, from the outset, for everything. Others who’ve been in touch about this have spoken about feeling that kind of familiarity and comfort within the new language and that was certainly my experience.

From second year, I also did German and continued with both to the end of secondary school, with French remaining very much my favoured language but German really growing on me, particularly as we got the chance to read more in German (Kafka and Frisch and Dürrenmatt). I spent a year living in France between school and Uni (taking ‘French for foreigners’ classes at Lille III University which was brilliant) and then it was just obvious that French would be part of what I’d do at University, too, so I did. I also took up Czech in first and second year of University which was challenging, to put it mildly, but which I thoroughly enjoyed, not least because, if you wanted to take second year Czech, you had to spend a month at a Summer School in the Czech Republic during the Summer which seemed like an excellent way to spend my time.

In other words, for me, languages have always been there, in different contexts, at different levels, with different levels of enthusiasm, and if I think about what has motivated me to continue studying languages, it’s very often people – Mr Prosser at secondary school, excellent Czech tutors at University in the shape of Josef Fronek and Igor Hajek, but also friends from countries where the languages are spoken and from other countries where other languages are spoken, and, since starting work as a Lecturer in French, students, too. It’s about the books and the films and the plays and the museums and the travel and the food, too, of course, but it’s the people who are the primary motivation, from my perspective.

Our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, studied languages in secondary school because the system left him no choice in the matter. You simply had to do at least two languages, one in S1 (in his case, English) and another from S3 (German, for him) with the possibility of picking up a 3rd language in lycée. For him, that structure is relevant when we consider the practical timetabling issues in Scottish schools nowadays and the impact that has on language uptake. There were also special, geographical circumstances that came into play (Jean-Michel comes from the region on the border between France and Switzerland), meaning that tv was readily available in French, German and Italian. He had an older brother who lived in England, American relatives, American pupils visiting his college every year and, he assures us, ‘parents who grew up during the war who were convinced we needed to build a new Europe…’

Hannah Grayson spoke French for the first time in her first week of secondary school: ‘I was 11 years old and very shy, but I was quite pleased we all had to take French as a compulsory subject. It was like an immediate *click*, where I just loved it. I liked the sound of the words, the challenge of learning the names of things in another language, and the fun activities we got to do in class. After that, I chose to carry on with French because I found it really exciting to be able to express myself in another language. I met people from France and loved being able to understand them in their native language. As somebody who likes learning, I like French because there’s always more to learn – there’s always something else I could read, or words I haven’t yet come across.’

Elizabeth Ezra only really started learning French at University but says she wishes she’d been able to start it earlier and ‘learn it at a more relaxed pace!’ In her case, growing up in the States, ‘apart from a few Spanish words that everyone growing up in Southern California learns, that was my first exposure to a language other than English.

French wasn¹t initially my main subject – I just kind of took it on a whim – but I was given the chance in my first year of uni to spend ten weeks in France. I¹d never been out of California (let alone on an airplane) and thought I might never have another chance to go abroad, so I jumped at it.

Even though I was always good at grammar, I couldn¹t really understand a word people in France were saying for a *very* long time. I was actually convinced that this French thing was an elaborate practical joke, and that at some point people would burst out laughing and speak in perfect English about how gullible I was. I loved the south of France, where I was living and studying, but I hated feeling that people thought I was stupid because I could hardly speak. Of course I know now that’s not how it works, and that’s not how people think, but at 17, I didn’t realise that.

In my second year, I took more French because, frankly, I didn’t want all the (very) hard work I’d put in to learning the language in my first year to go to waste (which isn’t a very good reason to pursue something, but there you go). Fortunately, I soon fell in love with French literature. In my third year, I did my study abroad in Paris, which introduced me to the world of French literary theory and philosophy, which I also fell in love with. Once again, while I continued to be good at grammar, I was very bad at understanding spoken French, and they almost didn’t let me take classes at l’Université de Paris III. To remedy my weakness, I obviously read a lot in French, but I also bought a transistor radio (if only there had been podcasts back then) and forced myself to listen to French radio a
couple of hours each day. Eventually, I was able to pick out more and more words, until my comprehension was up to speed.

I came back from Paris with all guns blazing, keen to pursue the study of French literature and culture. After finishing my undergraduate studies, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.’

And finally, for the moment, Mathilde Mazau, started learning English at 11 (en 6e au college, en Martinique). It was her ‘langue vivante 1’ – she also did Latin, German and Spanish, but later. She says: ‘I fell in love with English through music when I was a little child and I think being able to understand and sing the songs I loved (rather than “chanter de la bouillie anglaise”) was my main motivation. I then continued English at uni and taught the language for many years in France before coming to Scotland.’

As other responses come in from colleagues, I’ll add them to the blog but this gives a pretty good starting point, at least from our perspective! Next, it’s the turn of our students to have their say (and maybe try to find some pictures to illustrate all of this!)…

Staff news: conferences and new colleagues

Many of our recent blog posts have centred on the fantastic achievements and activities of our students (past and present) but it occurs to us that it’s a while since we’ve posted an update on what French at Stirling staff are up to so here goes…

Firstly, as regular blog followers will know, we’ve made some new appointments in French at Stirling over the past few months. That has meant saying goodbye to valued colleagues (Bill Marshall at the end of August last year, David Murphy at the end of December) but it has also meant welcoming and getting to know new colleagues. Beatrice Ivey has settled well into her Research Assistantship, working with Fiona Barclay on the AHRC-funded project ‘Narratives and Representations of the French Settlers of Algeria’ (if you haven’t seen it yet, their exhibition is still on in Pathfoot); Emeline Morin is already a semester into her 2-year post with us and doing a brilliant job; Aedín ní Loingsigh joined us halfway through the Autumn semester on a permanent lectureship across French and Translation and is also doing brilliantly; and Hannah Grayson has now also joined us – as of 1 January – on a permanent lectureship and is, of course, settling in really well. Lots of changes – all for the good!

Secondly, many of us will be popping up at a range of conferences and invited talks over the months ahead, starting with Hannah Grayson who will be co-convening a seminar stream on responding to violence in postcolonial African literature at the American Comparative Literature Association at Georgetown University in March. Hannah will then be presenting on Véronique Tadjo (an author whose work she teaches on as part of our Cultures of Travel modules this semester) at the 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium in Oklahoma City. And, when she’s back in the UK, on 3 April, Hannah will be speaking at an evening of remembrance in St Andrews, to commemorate 25 years since the genocide in Rwanda.

Cristina Johnston will be giving a paper on the 20th anniversary of the PaCS legislation at the annual Society for French Studies conference at Royal Holloway in early July, and then a paper on the representation (or lack thereof) of lesbian characters in contemporary French cinema at the MLA International Symposium in Lisbon at the end of July.

2019 Tours Conference EE PosterElizabeth Ezra will be giving an invited talk at the University of Tours at the start of April at a conference called ‘On the Ruins and Margins of European Identity in Cinema.’ Her talk is titled ‘Out of Bounds: The Spatial Politics of Civility in The Square (Östlund, 2017) and Happy End (Haneke, 2017).’ Elizabeth also has an article on ethics and social relations coming out in May in the journal Children’s Literature called ‘Becoming Familiar: Witches and Companion Animals in Harry Potter and His Dark Materials.’

Elizabeth also travelled to France in December to examine the PhD thesis of Literature and Language’s PhD student Fanny Lacôte, who has taught on various modules in French at Stirling. The viva was a public event, which attracted a significant audience composed of friends, family, and members of the public and Fanny passed with flying colours so many congratulations to her!

And, finally for the moment, following on from Aedín ní Loingsigh’s successful Erasmus+ teaching exchange at Limoges late last year, we’re currently finalising arrangements to welcome our colleague Joëlle Popineau from our partners at the University of Tours who will spend a week on an Erasmus+ staff mobility with us in early March. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming Joëlle to Stirling in a few weeks.

More to follow shortly, I’ve no doubt!