My Handwriting

Two photos today: one as student of Patrick Weil‘s course on the 5th Republic back in 2003:

(I still use these notes to prepare lectures – brought them with me to class just today!)

and one as prof:

Red, erasable editor’s pencil always in hand, I finished grading the essay portion of my students’ midterms last night. This student did a pretty good job answering my broad question about “France face à ‘l’autre'”  (France confronting the “other”) – covering the period of 1900-1958. I used to use a variety of colored pens to grade, always avoiding red as my dad always does, but Seth brought home a bunch of boxes of these pencils when he worked at Fortune, and I was hooked on them, mostly because I can erase and change my comments, which I always second-guess. It’s old school needing the pencil sharpener, but my 3.5-year-old assistant is only too eager to help me complete that task.

Summer Projects

It’s been quite a summer for us and I finally have about a week of downtime before my postdoc position begins. I am determined to finish the projects I’ve daydreamed about while finishing my writing and letting the house and yard and sweet little Jax fend for themselves!

Some of these took more time than others. Some things we’ve been working on:

A little project for my little nephew. I’m not finished yet so I can’t reveal any more about it!

New fabric roller shades I made using this tutorial on Design*Sponge.

I made this craft table and chair set from found items and decoupaged scrapbook paper. The only issue we’ve had is that because I used non-toxic milk paint, the finish is not very durable. You can see from the multicolored stains that we’ve done a lot of various painting projects!

A 5-minute craft organizer for under $10: That’s an inexpensive towel rod from Home Depot, some industrial S hooks, and metal buckets found for a dollar. If you wanted to make it a 30 minute project, you could paint it to match the decor. We’re all about function for the moment!

We also had a momentous month, with my finishing my dissertation and Seth contributing to the cover story of the current issue of Fortune. Whee!

Seth’s cover is cooler than mine.

There he is! In print!

My other blogging project…

This is something I should have started years ago to keep track of my teaching materials and ideas, but better late than never. I’ve just started a blog about teaching French at the university level, and it’s called (in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way) En français, classe! My goal is to create a resource other instructors can use and maybe even someday contribute to. Check out my About page over there to read a more complete explanation of what I hope the site to be.

There are still a bunch of things to fix, like having drop-down category boxes in the toolbar, and making that header image a tad shorter so you can actually see some of the content, but these things can wait. I just wanted to get this going as I prepare to enter the academic job market post-defense (which, by the way, is scheduled for mid-September!) ?? What better way to show my teaching philosophy and methods than to refer potential employers to this blog? Now I can write about what I’m doing anyway, and it gives me a more productive break from the dissertation than, say, catching up on every craft and design blog I can think of.

What do you think?



We are back from over three weeks of traveling! Jax was such a good sport and didn’t seem to mind being whisked from place to place, visiting five cities in three countries in less than a month.

Our first stop was Oxford, the reason for our trip over the Atlantic. I gave a paper (based on a chapter in my dissertation) at the Society for French Studies Annual Conference. It was a pleasure meeting other scholars of France and even reconnecting with a former graduate school colleague. I had to bring Jax to registration the first day, and to say good-bye on the last day as well (Seth was in London doing some work on those days, coming to Oxford in the middle for my presentation day). Everyone was understanding, although if the weather wasn’t so wonderful, I’m not sure bringing a 9-month-old to an academic conference would ever be a good idea!

In all, a great three days in this famous capitol of learning.



























OK, where to next?

Weekend Projects: Writing and a new site

This weekend was all about writing a paper for a workshop taking place in 2 weeks. The final paper is for a big-deal conference I’m going to in July which will be important for me academically, but will also be a chance to take the fam on a little European tour.

In the midst of my writing and breaks to play with a certain someone, this afternoon my mom told me that the woman who was renting the family house in Florida had fallen gravely ill and had returned home. We are now looking for people to go keep the beach house company, and rather than email a ton of pictures, we decided to create a little site to refer people to. So with dns registration and blogging skills in hand, Seth and I threw this thing together in under an hour. It was a fun break from my other projects.


Voila! The Brown’s Bay Bungalow site is up and running.

To the Barricades!

Paris Brise Chaines 1944The rich and tumultuous history of Paris can be told in part by a vast series of photographs, lithographs, and other images now available to anyone with an internet connection. The Paris en Images collection is an excellent database with a search feature which allows the researcher to find images by keyword and date. What’s even better is that they are freely available for private and scholarly use.

The barricade has been almost as much a part of Parisian history as the Seine river. Since the 16th century Parisians have dug up paving stones and piled them into barricades during numerous revolutions, insurrections, and protests. Here, I’ve picked some of my favorite images of barricades, and in places very much recognizable in present-day Paris. We think of Parisian history (and by extension that of France) as being an ever-changing series of radically different regimes. It’s interesting to me, however, to see the continuity in the form of protest, both on the right and left.

1848 Barricade
Revolution of 1848, Remains of a Barricade on rue Royale

1870-71 Barricade
Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871, Barricade at l’?toile

1871 Barricade Hotel de Ville
Paris Commune, 1871, Barricade at Hôtel de Ville

1871 Barricade Vendome
Paris Commune, 1871, Vendôme Column Pulled to the Ground

Barricade 1914
Construction of a Barricade at a Gate of Paris, August 1914

1934 Ligue de droites
1934, Protest of the Ligues de droite (right-wing political organization)

Barricade 1944
Liberation of Paris, Barricade at the Pont Neuf and rue Dauphine, August 1944

1968 Barricade
May 1968, Barricade on the rue Racine

Further reading:

Mark Traugott, “Barricades as Repertoire: Continuities and Discontinuities in the History of French Contention.” Social Science History, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Summer, 1993), pp.309-323.

Jeannene M. Przyblyski, “Revolution at a Standstill: Photography and the Paris Commune of 1871.” Yale French Studies, No. 101, Fragments of Revolution. (2001), pp. 54-78.

Jill Harsin, Barricades: The War of the Streets in Revolutionary Paris, 1830-1848. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

Picasso’s Carmen?

Picasso Carmen

Was Picasso ?? lover of women, Spaniard expatriate, passionate painter ?? preoccupied with the figure of the gypsy seductress, Carmen? The Musée Picasso is currently holding an exhibition based on the premise that the character of Carmen, first developed in Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novel and then interpreted in Georges Bizet’s 1874 opera, was an influential figure in the painter??s oeuvre and imaginary. Alan Riding??s interesting review in the International Herald Tribune promotes this reading of Picasso??s work, imagining a seductive Carmen as motor and muse for his representations of the many women he painted throughout his life. I am not convinced this reading ??sticks,? however, once you??ve examined the sources on display.

To be sure, Picasso twice illustrated editions of Carmen ?? once in the late 1940s and again in 1964 (Le Carmen des Carmen) ?? and entitled “Carmen” an early drawing of a Spanish woman. A Spaniard and also lover of many women, images of his lovers wearing mantilla veils appear in dozens of drawings and paintings, as does imagery of the corrida. These two themes ?? seductive women and the bullfight ?? are indeed the principal components of the Carmen story and so, also, form the bulk of the Picasso works in the exhibition.

But I argue that these themes are simply identifiers of the Spanish culture from which Picasso came and then definitively left behind during the Franco era. The retro-fit operation of placing Carmen behind these works of art doesn??t seem to fit when Carmen really represents an exotic, Spanish caricature that would mean more to an outsider (say, a French author) than to the painter himself.

The Corrida
An avid fan of the corrida, Picasso quite often experienced this tradition of stamina and struggle, honor and sacrifice. It should be no surprise that the bullfight would emerge in so many of his drawings and paintings: Alan Riding has a convincing argument that Picasso used the bullfight in his art as a metaphor for animalistic human passions. Nonetheless, it would hold more strongly that the corrida imagery came from first-hand experience and artistic interpretation than it did from a 19th-century French story the artist read or opera he saw. It is not doubtful Picasso was interested in the corrida theme of the Carmen story, but the interest most likely preceded the story and not the other way around. It made up the cultural imaginary that surrounded him.

The Seductress
Much has been said about Picasso??s personal life. Womanizer to some, serial monogamist to others, he was married twice and had four children with three different women, and had many other companions in between. Françoise Gilot notoriously wrote about their 9-year relationship in often unflattering terms. I am not convinced, however, that this behavior is linked to a ??Carmen? that Picasso sought time after time in his serial amorous exploits. The theme of the femme fatale has more far-reaching origins and widespread interpretations than the particular figure of Carmen. Fin-de-siècle and Belle Epoque art and literature is particularly preoccupied with dangerous, hysterical, and eroticized femmes fatales, through figures like the biblical Salomé in the symbolist art of Gustave Moreau, paintings by Gustav Klimt, and literary works by decadent writers like Joris-Karl Huysmans. If in Picasso’s work or life such a figure emerges, it would be more useful to analyze this phenomenon in the broader context of late 19th- and early 20th-century art.

In all, the exhibition did not seem to provide convincing evidence of a ??Carmen? figure as the influential force behind the works displayed, but promoted instead a hind-sight look at his oeuvre through Merimée??s lens. Spain seen through the eyes of a Frenchman (be it Mérimée or Bizet) then caricaturized and reintroduced to a Spaniard? It may be giving too much credit to the mythical Carmen what Picasso??s own native visual inspiration and cultural imagery produced in his work. This context would serve as a more accurate and equally interesting premise to the exhibition.

“Picasso-Carmen: Sol y Sombra” runs until June 24.
Musée Picasso, 5, rue de Thorigny, 3rd arrondissement.
Open everyday but Tuesday from 9:30am-6:00pm.

Picasso Corrida Muerte ToreroPicasso Carmen des CarmenPicasso La CelestinePicasso Fernande MantillePicasso Olga FauteuilPicasso Olga MantillePicasso Senora Canals

Peynet Drawings

Peynet WindowI do a lot of research in the microfilm room of the Bibliothèque Nationale. Reel after reel of newspaper pages sometimes have surprises that amuse or shock me, and make the time fly by. Sometimes I find sensational fin-de-siècle headlines about “vampires” (people with rabies), sad souls jumping from the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral, or the latest duel (a common way to resolve differences). But searching through Ici Paris, a later newspaper from the 1940s and 1950s, I found the sweetest drawings by a cartoonist named Raymond Peynet.

You may recognize his illustrations, which sometimes appears on post cards in Parisian paper shops. The theme is usually “les amoureux” with two lovers appearing in a variety of locations in a light-hearted scenarios, sometimes even akin to the floating style akin to Chagall.

Peynet (1908-1999) was born in Paris and became one of the most popular illustrators in France. He began his series of “Les amoureux” (the poet and his companion) in 1942, and later went on to draw over 6000 charming images in the series. The French singer/songwriter Georges Brassens even wrote a song inspired by the drawings, called “Les amoureux des banc publics” (“The Lovers of Public Benches”). There are two museums in France dedicated to the illustrator’s work. One in Brassac-les-Mines, and another in Antibes. The Picasso museum in Antibes (which I last visited in 2000) is closed for renovations until 2008, but the Peynet gives me a new reason to visit that Mediterranean town.

Below are some Peynet illustrations I found online, although I hope to photocopy and scan many of the ones I have found at the library. Note that, in the drawing of the gazebo, the woman is knitting! How can I not be one of the many “amoureux” of Peynet?

Peynet BenchPeynet BoatPeynet GazeboPeynet Harp