Thursday, April 2
11:30 AM
Neill Hall 401
Abderrahmane Sissako
Transnational Filmmaker

The campus is cordially invited to come to a discussion with one of the world’s leading filmmakers, Abderrahmane Sissako. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2015 Oscars and recipient of seven Cesars awards for his most recent film Timbuktu — inspired by recent events in Mali — Sissako is originally from Mali and Mauritania. He studied film in Russia where he lived for ten years before moving to France. His cinema is poetic and engaging, and personal as well as cosmopolitan. The Walker Art Center is organizing a retrospective of his major works (

We will show a couple of clips from his films before opening up the discussion with this extraordinary artist.

October (1993) a story about an African and Russian couple, about leaving and returning; Life on Earth (1998), the only African film commissioned by European TV channel Arte for a series about the third millenium, where the filmmaker returns to Sokolo, in Mali; Heremakhono (2002) about a young man who wants to emigrate to Europe and spends a few days visiting his mother in the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou, reflecting about life; it is also a film about becoming a filmmaker, about light and work; Bamako (2006), filmed in Mali in his father’s courtyard, puts on trial the world financial institutions for their impact on the daily life of Africans; and Timbuktu (2014) tells of the assault on Northern Malians experienced in 2012, and of the resistance of the inhabitants, especially women

Wednesday, April 22
4:45 PM
Neill 401
Laure Marcellesi
Desperately Seeking Savages: France’s Encounter with Tahiti

Marcellesi will look at the birth, evolution, and endurance of the theme of Tahiti as it unfolded in eighteenth-century French culture following the first European – Polynesian encounters. She will follow French explorers from the Americas to the South Seas in search of a new “homme sauvage” and analyze the historical facts, anthropological misunderstandings, and intellectual theories that came to shape the enduring idea of Tahiti as earthly paradise in the French imaginaire. Marcellesi will present a full portrait of the Tahitian Noble Savage as created by the French Enlightenment and show how it offered the perfect crucible for a reflection on nature, gender, and civilization, and how the Tahitian native became the perfect candidate for a new European experimentation with colonialism – a mission civilisatrice born out of Enlightenment ideals.

Wednesday, February 25
4:450 PM
Neill 401
Nathaniel Dubin
Translating 13th Century French Political Incorrectness into 21st Century American English

Using my translations of 13th century French fabliaux as an example, I will discuss the challenges, compromises and sacrifices that arise when one attempts to move texts and ideas across the barrier of different languages and cultures. Is translation possible? Is it necessary?

Nathaniel E. Dubin, professor emeritus of French at St. John’s University, received his PhD from the University of Washington in romance philology with a concentration in Old French dialects. He has given some two dozen presentations on Old French comic literature and on translation. His book, The Fabliaux, won the MLA’s award for an outstanding translation of a literary work for 2013. Prior to its publication, some appeared in The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces and ANQ, and others have been used in about a dozen graduate courses around the country.

Thursday, October 16
4:45 PM
Neill Hall 401
Souleymane Bachir Diagne
Literature and Philosophy:  The Existential Writing of Jean-Paul Sartre and Cheikh Hamidou Kane

This presentation will analyze, at the intersection of literature and philosophy, the notion of “existential writing” as it is exemplified in Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausee (1938) and in Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s L’ Aventure ambigüe. Cross-reading the two texts and showing in particular, that L’ Aventure ambigüe, a classic of African literature is also to be read and understood as an existentialist novel will lead to a discussion of the separation, within the literature written in French, between “francophonie” and “francité.”

Diagne is a professor at Columbia University in the departments of French and Philosophy.  Souleymane Bachir Diagne holds an agrégation in Philosophy and a PhD from the Sorbonne in the same discipline on the topic of Bolle’s Algebra of Logic. An alumnus of Ecole Normale Superieure he studied with Althusser and Derrida. His areas of research and publication include History of Philosophy, History of Logic and Mathematics, Islamic Philosophy, African Philosophy and Francophone Literature. His latest publications include:  Islam and the open society: fidelity and movement in Muhammad Iqbal’s thought, Dakar, Codesria, 2010; African art as philosophySenghor, Bergson, and the idea of Negritude, Seagull Books, 2011; Bergson postcolonial.L’élan vital dans la pensée de L.S. Senghor et de Mohamed Iqbal, Paris: CNRS Editions, 2011; Comment philosopher en Islam?Paris, Philippe Rey, 2013; L’encre des savants: réflexions sur la philosophie en Afrique, Paris, Présence africaine, 2013.

Tuesday, November 4
4:45 PM
Neill Hall 401
Justin Butler
Post-Societal Reproduction:  (Non-)Regulation of Life in the Dystopic Now and (A Post-Human Interrogation of Marie Darrieussecq’s Truismes)

From Marx to Althusser, the reproduction of society has been viewed as the sine qua non for all capitalist production.  Reproduction in this tradition assumes, of course, the biological reproduction of human beings.  But it also includes the reproduction of all of the necessary social, economic, and ideological conditions that enable and support capitalist production.  Dystopic fiction troubles facile acceptance of these conditions and their necessity by revealing the disastrous endgame of their logic.  This paper will examine how novelists of dystopia such as Marie Darrieussecq provide in their work an occasion to explore significant shifts in capitalism’s valorization of societal reproduction.  At issue is the administration of life, also referred to as biopolitics, and its manifold tendencies to impose constraints upon life and its materials, while ostensibly under the rubric of freeing or liberalizing them, in an increasingly biologically degraded world.

Monday, September 29
4:45 PM
Neill Hall 401
Mary Anne Garnett
George Sand’s Defense of the Forest of Fontainebleau: Artists and Environmentalism in Nineteenth-Century France

With deforestation and expansion of the tourist industry in nineteenth century France, preservation of the forest of Fontainebleau became a cause célèbre among artists, writers, and early environmentalists, resulting in the creation in 1861 of a “réserve artistique” of 1079 hectares, the first nature reserve in the world.  The year 1872 witnessed the creation of a Committee for the Artistic Protection of the Forest of Fontainebleau, an effort supported by George Sand in an article for the Le Temps and reprinted the following year (1873) in her Impressions et Souvenirs.  Sand’s article is a remarkable blend of romantic tropes, social commentary, ethical concerns, and contemporary scientific thought.  Her  talk will explore her text and rhetorical strategies in the context of the development of the ecological movement in France in the nineteenth century in which the forest of Fontainebleau played a prominent if not unique role.