Fall semester at Ohio State begins during the harvest season strictly speaking, rather than calendrical or meteorological “autumn”. As we return to campus in sandals, shorts, and sundresses, the spirit of the rentrée mirrors the season: the warm days of August and September are a time to gather in the fruits of summer study and travels.
Our Global May programs were wonderful successes once again. 25 students spent two weeks in Paris with Professor Lucille Toth and Dr. Kate Schlosser. 47 spent three weeks in Bologna on the “Italian Cities” program with Professors Jonathan Combs-Schilling and Jonathan Mullins. The glowing smiles in the pictures they share speak to the unique bonds that come of days of much walking, intense marveling, and sharing meals in cities layered with history and intersections of cultures. Many of us can testify how students returning from summer programs in Lecce, Siena, Sorrento, Montpellier, Paris, and Laval are eager to discuss their cultural observations and use their increasing language skills in class, building on the momentum of immersion. I love it. In my French 3403 “Gastronomic Culture” class, I have recent returnees excited to compare their discoveries of mustard. One raved wide-eyed at how Marseilles’ fish stew called bouillabaisse was actually far more delicious than she could have imagined, coming from Ohio. If you are a lover of French and Italian languages, it is likely you recall similar mind-altering food discoveries. (There is more information on how you can support summer voyages of discovery here).
Our graduate students are returning enriched by research travel for study, presenting first conference papers, and focused time for their reading lists. Notably, Michela Bertossa (Italian) benefited from the Summer Research Prize endowed by Professor Eleanor Bulatkin to make significant progress towards her dissertation, accessing digital archives such the La Cineteca Nazionale in Rome and Bologna’s Biblioteca delle Donne. With the French and Italian Summer Prize, Kellie Giordano (French) was able to visit the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the medical archives of the Salpêtrière in Paris developing her research on representations of women’s body images and disorders in French novels. Thanks to the Rymer Award, Stefani Scimeca (Italian) was able to visit the Archivio di Stato di Napoli and study the writer Anna Maria Ortese. In the midst of spending half a decade of their lives bent over books living on a limited stipend, these opportunities to be in direct contact with sources has an enormous impact on the course of ideas. Having time to simply concentrate on reading until their eyes bleed and writing without distractions helps students make progress like little else can. My sincerest gratitude for those committed supporters who provide the financial resources that allow for this time focused on research. Your investment allows our graduate students to grow towards becoming high-impact thinkers and instructors of French and Italian. It also allows us to recruit top students who will further scholarship in our field in the future. For more information on how you can impact our PhD students, please click here.
The distressing news of proposed eliminations of world language programs at certain universities has put our hearts in our throats this fall. I want to say that in French and Italian at Ohio State, we proudly affirm our commitment to the centrality of language and culture education in the university curriculum. Many of our finest faculty have fought to defend their place of importance for the state of Ohio and the nation over the decades. We will continue to do so. Our new courses on Intercultural Competency (FRIT 3054) are taking off, thanks to the work of Professors Janice Aski and April Weintritt. Units on it are now being formally imbedded across our courses. It was thrilling to have to open more and more sections of it for this autumn! The lessons that come from acquiring another culture’s words point to where you realize the limits of your own is transformative.
Being understood is one of the greatest mortal challenges. Expressing ourselves effectively is difficult, life-long work in our native languages, let alone foreign ones. But encountering the foreign ones offers the gift of the humility necessary to initiate the true process of learning.
Enough philosophizing. I wish you the pleasures of the season. I’m freezing basil and garlic in ice cube trays to flavor soupe au pistou in the months of herb poverty ahead. It’s not quite time to wrap on the chic wool scarves. The season for melancholic grey days of the French poet Verlaine’s “sanglots longs des violons de l’automne” (the long sobs of autumn’s violins) are not yet upon us. Enjoy all the colors!
~Sarah-Grace Heller, PhD~