La Maison Française will host a symposium on the groundbreaking writer and critic Maurice Blanchot (Nov. 2); a lecture with historian Robert Darnton about the literature read on the eve of the French Revolution (Nov. 7); a talk on Józef Czapski and his lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp (Nov. 13); and more in November.

Józef Czapski, Self-portrait with Lightbulb (detail), 1958

La Maison Française will host a symposium on the groundbreaking writer and critic Maurice Blanchot (Nov. 2); a lecture with historian Robert Darnton about the literature read on the eve of the French Revolution (Nov. 7); a talk on Józef Czapski and his lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp (Nov. 13); and more in November.

All events are held at La Maison Française, 16 Washington Mews (between University Place and Fifth Avenue), and are free and open to the public and in English, unless otherwise noted. Seating for free events is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call 212.998.8750 or visit Subways: R, W (8th Street); 6 (Astor Place); A, B, C, D, E, F, M (West 4th Street).

Thursday, November 1, 7:00 p.m.
Algiers, Third World Capital
Elaine Mokhtefi
, artist and author of Algiers, Third World Capital (Verso, 2018) in conversation with Adam Shatz, writer, London Review of Books and visiting professor at Bard College. 

Mokhtefi and Shatz evoke revolutionary Algiers and the dreams—and dramas—of creating a new world order.

Co-sponsored with the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture.

Friday, November 2, 9:40 a.m.
Symposium: Timing Blanchot

Organized by Denis Hollier and Zakir Paul.

In fall 2018, Fordham University Press will publish Maurice Blanchot: A Critical Biography, a translation of Christophe Bident’s groundbreaking life of the writer and critic, as well as Death Now, the final volume of of Blanchot’s Chronicles of Intellectual Life, written from 1941-1944. Finally, Minuit has recently published Jean-François Hamel's, Nous sommes tous la pègre (Les années 68 de Blanchot), an essay based on archival research into Blanchot’s involvement with the political tracts and events of May ’68, alongside Mascolo, Duras, Antelme, and many others. Spurred by these recent publications, this symposium focuses on Blanchot’s writing from the thirties to the sixties and beyond, offering an occasion to reconsider not only his often-contested political trajectory from the non-conformist extreme right to the radical left, but also the evolving concerns of his literary and critical works. 

Presentations in English or in French

Monday, November 5, 6:30 p.m.
Messengers of Disaster: Raphael Lemkin, Jan Karski and the Genocides
Institute of French Studies Lecture

Annette Becker, professor of history at Université Paris Nanterre and author of Les messagers du désastre. Raphael Lemkin, Jan Karski et les génocides.

In 1941, a few Polish men, including Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish lawyer, and Jan Karski, a Catholic resistant, foresaw the intensity and the specific nature of the destruction of the European Jews among other war crimes. They tried to convey what they knew, but they were met with indifference and rejection. Based on Annette Becker’s most recent book, Les messagers du désastre (Fayard, 2017), this talk explores the fights of these two men and situates these fights in the 20th-century history of “messengers of disaster,” who, since the genocide of the Armenians, have tried to alert the world to ongoing genocides.  

Wednesday, November 7, 6:30 p.m.
Books in Cities: The Demand for Literature in France on the Eve of the Revolution
Robert Darnton
, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor, Emeritus and University Librarian, Emeritus at Harvard University and author of The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural HistoryCensors at Work: How States Shaped Literature; and A Literary Tour de France: The World of Books on the Eve of the French Revolution.

New research in a new field, the history of books, goes back to a question raised by Daniel Mornet in a famous article of 1910: What did the French read on the eve of the Revolution?  This lecture is intended to answer that question and to explore related issues in cultural history by explaining how publishing and the book trade actually operated under the Ancien Régime.

Co-sponsored by Department of History, Urban Humanities Initiative, and Institute of French Studies

Friday, November 9 – Saturday, November 10

Institute of French Studies Graduate Student Conference

Betrayal and its cognates are burdened with a negative connotation, decried as the destruction of established social, political, cultural or affective ties. Yet the potential for rupture opened up by acts of betrayal also provides opportunities for narratives of change and progress. Along with considering acts of betrayal as they are or have been experienced or portrayed, the conference will consider scholarly interdisciplinarity as its own sort of methodological betrayal—and innovation. What are our responsibilities toward our research subjects and our institutional traditions? What are the risks and rewards of subverting conventional boundaries? Two-day conference organized by the IFS doctoral cohort. Historian Todd Shepard and literary scholar Kaoutar Harchi are keynote speakers.

Presentations in English or in French

Monday, November 12, 7:00 p.m.
Les Rétifs

Gerty Dambury
, Guadeloupean novelist and theatre director and author of Les Rétifs (Les Editions du Manguier, 2012) in conversation with Judith Miller, professor in the department of French Literature, Thought, and Culture at NYU and translator of the novel (The Restless, The Feminist Press, 2018).

Based on an historical event, Les Rétifs follows a child as she waits for her father to return from the bloody construction worker's strike of 1967. Dambury weaves a portrait of class, race, and political activism in the Francophone Caribbean through the family's story. Dambury and Miller will also read excerpts in French and in English, from Miller's recent translation of the novel (The Restless, The Feminist Press, 2018).

In French

Tuesday, November 13, 7:00 p.m.
Józef Czapski and His Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp

Eric Karpeles
, painter, writer, author of Paintings in Proust; Almost Nothing: The 20th-Century Art and Life of Jósef Czapski and translator of Czapski’s Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp in conversation with Anka Muhlstein, historian, biographer, and author of Balzac’s Omelette, Monsieur Proust’s Library, and The Pen and the Brush.

Józef Czapski (1896–1993) lived many lives during his ninety-six years: student in Saint Petersburg during the Russian Revolution, painter in Paris in the roaring twenties, Polish reserve officer fighting the invading Nazis at the onset of World War II. When taken prisoner of war in a Soviet camp, and with nothing but memory to go on, he brought Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time to life for an audience of prison inmates. In a series of lectures, Czapski described the arc and import of Proust’s masterpiece, sketched major and minor characters in striking detail, and movingly evoked the work’s originality, depth, and beauty. Eric Karpeles has translated this remarkable feat of the critical imagination into English in addition to authoring the first biography of this towering figure. Anka Muhlstein joins Karpeles in a conversation about this singular project and astoundingly complex figure.

Co-sponsored with New York Institute for the Humanities and New York Review Books  

Wednesday, November 14, 6:30 p.m.
Honoring 2016-17 Laureate of the Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies

Institute of French Studies Event

Laura Kalba, associate professor of art at Smith College. Selected from a pool of sixty nominated books, Color in the Age of Impressionism: Commerce, Technology, and Art (Penn State, 2017) draws from multiple founts of expertise to trace the far-reaching repercussions of a new visual field around color in late nineteenth-century France. Laura Kalba outlines a new field of study around chromatics, at the intersection of technological innovation and class politics, of visual and commercial cultures, of modes of perception and aesthetic judgment.

Tuesday, November 27, 7:00 p.m.
Jean-Paul Sartre, La Révolution française et le présent

Sophie Wahnich
, Directrice de recherche au CNRS (IIAC/EHESS/PSL) and author of La longue patience du peuple, 1792 naissance de la RépubliqueLes émotions, la Révolution française et le présent; and La Révolution française n’est pas un myth.

Co-sponsored with Department of French Literature, Thought, and Culture and Institute of French Studies

In French

Thursday, November 29, 6:30.p.m.
Are We Post-Francophone Yet? 

Kaoutar Harchi is Postdoctoral Researcher at the Musée du Quai Branly and visiting professor at NYU (French Literature, Culture and Thought and Institute of French Studies). A sociologist of culture, her work revolves around francophonie as an intellectual and social field and the trajectories of Algerian novelists who have obtained recognition in France. She is the author of Je n’ai qu’une langue et ce n’est pas la mienne(2016). She has also published three novels, including L’ampleur du saccage (Actes Sud, 2011). 

Lia Brozgal is Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA, with a special emphasis on France and North Africa. She is the author of Against Autobiography: Albert Memmi and the Production of Theory (2013); co-editor of Being Contemporary: French Literature, Culture and Politics Today (2015); co-editor of Ninette of Sin Street (the first English translation of the Tunisian novella Ninette de la rue du Péché by Vitalis Danon); and author of essays on North African literature and cinema, beur cultural productions, chronicles of the Holocaust in North Africa, and Judeo-Maghrebi literature and film.

Co-sponsored by Department of French Literature, Thought, and Culture and Institute of French Studies

Editor’s Note
For over six decades, La Maison Française of New York University has served as a major forum for French-American cultural and intellectual exchange, offering contemporary perspectives on myriad French and Francophone issues. Its rich program of lectures, symposia, concerts, screenings, exhibitions, and special events provides an invaluable resource to the university community, as well as the general public. For more, please visit


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