Back in June, Aedín was part of a team of academics and actors who organised a one-day workshop on Dementia and Bilingualism at the Insight Institute in the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. As this BBC Alba film shows, the performance-led day created a very different kind of event to the usual format of academic and voluntary sector conferences.
A dramatic reading of the play ‘Five to Midnight’ (provisional title) portrayed the experiences of ‘Mary’ who, with the onset of dementia begins to lose her ability to speak in English and returns to Scottish Gaelic, her mother tongue. The play, performed in separate parts, was interspersed with audience reflection and three panel discussions on bilingualism in the medical context, dementia’s impact on the family and the bilingual community and bilingualism and the arts.
The play prompted much discussion about changing roles and relationships in families affected by dementia. Mary’s husband ‘John’ does not speak Gaelic. Meanwhile, Mary’s adult son finds himself being pulled into the not always comfortable role of interpreter between his parents and those around Mary who do not understand Gaelic.
As Mary’s dementia progresses, she becomes increasingly cut off from the English-speaking world. Audience members without Gaelic language skills are exposed to more and more Gaelic monologues and conversations as the play unrolls, mirroring John’s experience of being increasingly locked out of his wife’s world. This experience fosters audience empathy with characters in the play who are separated by language divides.
Dementia’s impact on language is a key clinical and care issue, and science has shown that monolingual and bilingual individuals are affected differently.
Of course, the play focuses on a very specific linguistic context. However, students of French may be interested in this interview with the Canadian actress Louise Pitre who speaks about the struggles she had to find linguistically cognate care for her native French-speaking parents in anglophone Canada. As the project continues, it is hoped that it will highlight the need for wider recognition of the role of language and cultural understanding for the care needs of bilingual individuals living with dementia.
As promised, more updates here on what French at Stirling colleagues have been up to since teaching ended in the Spring. And this time, it’s a chance to catch up with what Emeline Morin, Lecturer in French, has been doing, starting with a paper entitled ‘(Un)veiling the sordid: metamorphosis in Marie Darrieussecq’s and Marcela Iacub’s Pig Tales’ that Emeline gave at the University of Glasgow back in May, part of their ‘Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations. Mapping the Mythosphere.’
In June, Emeline was then at the University of Southampton for a one-day conference organised by the ‘South, West, and Wales Gender Cluster.’ The conference was called ‘Marginalised Networks: Locating Queer and Gendered (Trans)national Connections’ and Emeline’s paper was called ‘Bridegroom tales and forced marriages: Francophone and Anglophone feminist fairy tales through time.’ And in August, Emeline went to Durham University for the ‘Consent: Histories, Representations, and Frameworks for the Future’ conference where she gave a paper entitled ‘Sexuality, Marriage, and Consent in Fairy Tales: the Value of Rewriting Stories’ that examined issues of consent in tales such as ‘The Sleeping Beauty’.
Finally, on the conference front, just last week (and evidence of the many and varied directions French and Francophone Studies can take you in!) Emeline spoke at the Royal Geography Society-IBG Annual International Conference in London, co-delivering a paper that she’d co-written with her friend and colleague Dr. Rachel Hunt (a lecturer in geo-humanities at Edinburgh Uni). The paper was called ‘The Bothy: a Scottish mythopoeia,’ and they discussed how cultural myths around Scotland impact real landscape and places such as bothies.
As we move closer and closer to the start of term, there’ll be more updates and news about all things French and Francophone at Stirling. In the meantime, we just wanted to let you know about a few new publications and conference papers written by some of our current and former postgrads and colleagues.
And our current PhD student Fraser McQueen gave a paper at the Society for French Studies annual conference at Royal Holloway in July entitled ‘Muslim is French: Zahwa Djennad’s Tabou. Confession d’un jeune de banlieue (2013).’ Fraser will be conferencing again later this week, at the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France in Paris, where he’ll be speaking about ‘Transnational Paris and Peripheral France in Michel Houellebecq’s Sérotonine.’
And finally, for the moment, our former colleague, Bill Marshall, has a chapter on Xavier Dolan’s films out in ReFocus: The Films of Xavier Dolan, a new collection focusing on Dolan, edited by Andrée Lafontaine. The chapter was previously published in Nottingham French Studies. Bill’s chapter on ‘Quebec Cinema as Global Cinema’ was also published earlier this year in Janine Marchessault and Will Straw’s Oxford Handbook of Canadian Cinema.
Many of the articles on this blog over the past months and years have given an overview of what our undergraduate students go on to do after graduation and we’re hoping to continue that particular stream of posts in the weeks ahead. For just now, though, a slightly different perspective, in the shape of this article from Martin who completed his PhD with us, under the supervision of Bill Marshall and Cristina Johnston, a few years ago now, working on language and French and Francophone rap:
‘Since the end of my PhD in June 2016, I have focused primarily on teaching and publishing my PhD research. Although my main area of study was French at university, I started working full-time as a Dutch and English teacher in a Belgian secondary school in September 2016 because of the shortage of such teachers. My Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpreting combined with my time spent in Flanders (for my Master’s degree) and Scotland made me a very sought-after candidate for such vacancies.
Of course, I would have preferred to teach French right away, ideally in a high school or a university (both types of higher education in Belgium), but there are many French teachers on the job market. Even with a PhD, it is hard to stand out when applying for a vacancy. This was made even more complicated by the introduction of a new law regulating the degrees needed to teach in secondary schools. Since September 2016, it has become mandatory to possess a teaching degree from a university (called agrégation). Without this degree, it is hard to find a teaching position, you get paid less, anyone with a teaching degree, even fresh out of university, will be prioritised over you regardless of your years of service, and it is impossible (actually illegal) to get a permanent contract.
As I had been made aware of this upcoming legislative change, I enrolled in a French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain in September 2016, right after my PhD. This course normally takes one year to complete, but I took it over two years while working full-time. It is only worth 30 credits on paper but takes a lot of time and effort and represents many more credits in practice. In fact, if you take it within a Master’s degree, you are allowed to take a 6-credit ‘empty course’ as compensation because they do realise that it would be too hard otherwise. Unfortunately, they do not offer such a privilege to people who only follow the teaching part of the degree. Things were made even more difficult by my father’s passing away in October 2016. Despite all of this, I somehow managed to finish the degree with the highest distinction (18/20 average) while having a second daughter and publishing 5 articles based on chapters from my thesis. My hair was thinning before and now I am completely bald… Go figure!
This new degree has created opportunities for me. It allowed me to start working part-time as a French teacher in a secondary school last September while continuing to teach English to ‘immersion’ classes (with students who have certain courses in English despite being in a French-speaking school). Next school year, I am very likely to work as a French teacher full-time. My goal is to do this for a few years and to eventually find a more fulfilling position in a Belgian high school or maybe university if I get the right opportunity. A big reform is about to take place with regards to teaching degrees, which means that high schools and universities will be looking for new teachers. The director of the French teaching degree at the Université catholique de Louvain told me that he will get in touch with me then, as I impressed him during my studies. I’ve had interviews with other high school directors who told me that my profile would be very interesting then. I do enjoy teaching in secondary schools, but students can be unruly and the school programs uninspiring at times. Furthermore, it does not make long-term sense, in my opinion, as my PhD is not valued at all (nor even taken into consideration).
In any case, we will see what the future has in store for me! I will make sure to let the University of Stirling know. In the meantime, you can read some of my publications on non-standard vocabulary in Francophone rap if you want to: in French here, and in English here, here, here and here!’
Many, many thanks to Martin for having found the time among so many other commitments to write this blog post for us and we look forward to hearing how things work out in the next academic year, and send you our best wishes!
A Summer of changes for French at Stirling, not only with new cohorts of students coming to join us and our ELAs and Study Abroad students returning, but also on the staffing front. As we’ve mentioned here before, Bill Marshall retires at the end of next month and we are currently advertising for two new lecturers so there’ll be new faces in the teaching team over the months ahead. And, as we’ve also spoken about on the blog, Fiona Barclay – who has been on research leave this past semester – was awarded an AHRC Early Career Researcher Leadership Fellowship so we’re also appointing a fixed-term lecturer to replace Fiona for the next two years. We’re looking forward to introducing you to these yet-to-be-appointed colleagues very soon but, first, we thought it’d be good to get Fiona to tell us a bit about what she’s been up to over these past few months and what lies ahead. And that also gives us an excellent excuse to introduce Dr Beatrice Ivey who was recently appointed to work as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant with Fiona and who we’re very excited to welcome to Stirling!
‘Greetings from the sunny south of France, where I’ve just finished my semester of research leave! Stirling seems very far away but as the semester comes to a close it’s a good time to look back on the last few months and reflect on plans, progress, and the inevitable changes that happen…
I came to France in January with the plan of writing a couple of chapters of the book that I’m working on, using local libraries, and accessing some archives. The book is on the European settlers who came to Algeria following its conquest by the French in 1830. Almost all of them – 900,000 – were forced to leave for France when Algeria became independent in 1962 in one of the biggest population movements since 1945. Since then, a proportion of them have been very vocal in French politics, whilst others have produced a large corpus of literature which records their memories of their homeland and works through their feelings of loss and nostalgia. My project looks at these narratives and representations, and the ways in which the community’s identity is being passed on to the younger generations born in France since 1962.
Plans are often subject to change, and so it was on this occasion. My idea of using the local university library ran into trouble straightaway, when I discovered that, due to a combination of a local strike against university mergers, and the subsequent national blockade of universities, it was closed until further notice. In the end ‘until further notice’ meant nearly 5 months, giving me a new perspective on the UK’s UCU strike action, and a lot of sympathy for local students who were still expected to sit exams. Thankfully Stirling’s electronic library holdings and lending provision has developed a lot in the last few years, so I was able to access most of the texts needed.
The second change to my plans came in February, when I received news that my application to the AHRC’s Leadership Fellows scheme had been successful. The award is £250,000 for a two-year project starting next month and, in addition to the completion of the book, it has a substantial set of public engagement activities, some of which will start early in the project. Consequently, I’ve spent much of the last few months working with colleagues in museums and archives in Paris, Perpignan and Port-Vendres to organise access to images, video testimonies, artefacts and so on. These will feature in a year-long exhibition opening in September at the Pathfoot Gallery in Stirling. I’m also working with colleagues at Stirling to build a new project website, which will feature an interactive map giving access to many of the images, videos and sound-files, as well as links to a free access online course (MOOC) and film season taking place as part of the UK French Film Festival in November 2018.
The project will also have another team member, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant who will work on the project for 15 months. I’m delighted that Dr Beatrice Ivey, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Leeds, will be starting at Stirling on 1 September. She will be leading on many of the digital and online parts of the project, and also co-organising an international conference on forced migration which will take place at Stirling next May. We look forward to welcoming her to Stirling!’
Many thanks to Fiona for this update – news of the exhibition and other events will follow in due course! – and over to Beatrice:
‘I’m joining the ‘From Colonisers to Refugees’ project at the University of Stirling as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant and, in this role, I’ll be assisting Dr Fiona Barclay with the management of the project website, the organisation of an international conference at Stirling in 2019, research and publication as part of a planned special issue. I will also interview people who have settled in Scotland having fled Syria as refugees for the project’s Digital Cartographies and Storytelling Soundscapes components.
I completed my PhD at the University of Leeds in 2018, examining the gender performativity of cultural memory in writings by Assia Djebar, Hélène Cixous, Ahmed Kalouaz, Malika Mokeddem, and Nina Bouraoui. My thesis, entitled ‘Performing Gender, Performing the Past’ argued that acts of cultural memory also reiterate, and possibly subvert, the gendered imaginaries associated with French colonialism in Algeria. I examined specific cases of gendered memory which produced connections between the memory of French Algeria and other disparate histories of extreme violence, such as the Holocaust, Partition, Slavery in the Caribbean, and the ongoing ‘Border Crisis’ (Daniel Trilling 2017) in the Mediterranean. I have published a chapter ‘Hélène Cixous’s L’Indiade ou l’Inde de leurs rêves: Gendering Memories of Colonialism in Algeria and India’ in the volume French Feminisms 1975 and After(Atack, Fell, Holmes, Long 2018) and an article ‘Affect, Gender, and Postmemory in Nina Bouraoui’s Representations of the 1970s’ in theInternational Journal of Francophone Studies.
My current research focuses on the transnational memory of forced migration in Francophone cultural production from and about the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean.’
Many thanks to Beatrice and Fiona for these posts, and good luck with the project!