French and the Global Humanities

French and the Global Humanities is a working group dedicated to rethinking and reworking the scholarly, pedagogical, and disciplinary parameters of what it means to study “French.” Our goal is to build intellectual and institutional connections, across departments and programs at Northwestern, but also throughout the greater Chicago area and indeed around the world.

We embrace and emphasize the history and future of French as a world language—an official language in 29 countries, the sixth most-spoken language in the world, and by some measures, the fastest-growing one, too. Our collaborations include French and Francophone cultures in the conventional sense but also explore contacts, comparisons, and common ground in places that do not fit the definition of Francophone, but where French-language cultures have played a major role in cultural life, from Japanese philosophy to Egyptian surrealism to psychoanalysis in Argentina.

At the same time, the French language does not define the limits of our inquiry, but rather constitutes one partner in dialogues with other languages and traditions, a frontier where one finds interaction, fusion, and conflict.

Conference: October 19-21

Broadly inspired by an upcoming Tarsila do Amaral exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, our inaugural conference, Beyond Anthropophagy: Cultural Modernities Between Brazil and France, will explore Brazilian/French literary, artistic, and intellectual interactions between the wars in terms of recent debates about “world literature,” “world art,” and “global modernity.” 


Artwork in header image by Tarsila do Amaral.