What have the French ever done for us?

Posted on: 29 March 2018

Current French writing on climate change can give us a fresh perspective on our understanding of French culture and wider debates on the future education and sovereignty, according to Michael Cronin, 1779 Professor of French, who delivered a public lecture in Trinity College Dublin on Wednesday, March 28th, 2018 entitled ‘What have the French ever done for us?: From the existentialist café to making the planet great again’.

In the lecture to mark his appointment as 1776 Professor of French Professor Cronin discussed the implications of climate change for a new understanding of French studies and its relevance for wider debates on the future of humanities, education and sovereignty.

“A feature of French philosophical writing, from Michel de Montaigne, Blaise Pascal, and Voltaire to Simone de Beauvoir and Julia Kristeva, has been a deliberate attention to the writing itself, to the medium of expression. Literature and philosophy are not two separate but conjoined activities.French ecological writing – Félix Guattari, Michel Serres, Bruno Latour, Corine Pelluchon – is no different and, in contrast to English-language writing on the environment, pays much greater attention to the different registers of language to advance its argument. The French notion of ‘écocritique’ is not only different in its modes of expression but has a much broader sense of what makes up political ecology.”

'What have the French ever done for us?

Professor Cronin argued that a common thread in much recent ecological writing in France is the necessity to embrace an earth-based or terracentric view of our activities in order to challenge the notion of human exceptionalism and to re-orient our politics in the age of the anthropocene. In his lecture he discussed how the terracentric can be considered as a way of approaching French Studies from a different perspective, one more suited to our present ecological dilemmas. He also explored how this new perspective demands a radical rethinking of the role of universities. Finally, attending to the much-neglected role of modern languages in the public sphere in Ireland, he considered how French ecological readings can help us to rethink a role for Ireland in a post-Brexit future.

More about Prof Michael Cronin:

Michael Cronin is 1776 Professor of French (Chair). He is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin (BA mod. in French and English) and holds an MA from University College Dublin and a PhD from Trinity College Dublin. He has taught in the Université François Rabelais (Tours), the École Normale Supérieure (Cachan), and Dublin City University and has held Visiting Professorships in the Université Paris 8 (France), KU Leuven (Belgium), Universidad Ricardo Palma (Peru), the American University Cairo (Egypt), and the Université de Moncton (Canada).

He is the author of eleven monographs, co-editor of seven volumes, and author of over one hundred refereed articles and book chapters. His work has been translated into more than sixteen languages. Michael’s main research interests are in the area of translation, intercultural communication, travel literature, and minority languages and cultures. He has received funding for major projects from the Irish Research Council in the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions. He served as Literature Advisor for the Arts Council of Ireland, is a former Chairperson of Poetry Ireland, and is currently on the working group of the Culture 2025 national policy committee.

He is an elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy, an elected Member of the Academia Europaea/Academy of Europe, and an Officer in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques. He is an Honorary Member of the Irish Translators and Interpreters Association. He is co-editor of the Routledge series New Perspectives in Translation and Interpreting Studies and is Editor-in-Chief of the journal MTM.

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