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Students receive funding for summer research projects in France

Thanks to a Charles Center Honors Fellowship, Ellie Madigan ('25) is going to be reading lots of French Pygmalion and Frankenstein stories this summer. She will be researching eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literary texts featuring uneasy Creator/Creature relationships. Drawing on the work of historian Julia Douthwaite (2012), Ellie hopes to investigate the philosophical, political, and scientific contexts behind this period's eerie narratives. What happens, after all, once Creatures come to "life" and claim an agency of their own? What counts as life? These questions mattered deeply in 1790 and in the following decades when French philosophers' and revolutionaries' attempts at engineering or regenerating citizens for the new republic culminated in the realization that new social forces could spiral out of control. If the eighteenth-century Pygmalion myth expressed Enlightenment beliefs in education and the possibility of creating a perfect (and submissive) partner, did the unruly automata of the revolutionary and postrevolutionary period speak to new concerns about rights, agency, and intelligence?

Maeve Donahue ('25) received similar funding to jump-start her senior year honors research on anti-racist efforts in Montpellier and Béziers, France. She hopes to write a microhistory of each city, detailing their development since WWII and the beginning of the Fifth French Republic. Both Montpellier and Béziers are situated in the Occitanie region of France, yet they have very different political ideologies, population growth rates, and development strategies. Overall, Maeve's project seeks to investigate how these differences shape antiracist efforts on site. Through interviews with community leaders and public officials, studies of contemporary graffiti, advertisements, and the urban landscape, as well as traditional library research, Maeve will assess these cities' commitment and effectiveness in anti-racist mobilization. Specifically, she will investigate efforts from government programs, private organizations and cultural institutions, with a focus on local media, museums and events.

An Integrative Conservation and French & Francophone Studies double-major, Elliott Durham ('25) will be using her summer grant to explore and do research in the Cévennes, one of France’s oldest and largest national parks. Her interdisciplinary research will attempt to identify points of tension within the park's management strategies as they balance considerations of the site's cultural history and the needs of the natural environment. By studying this unique regional history, Elliott hopes to understand how the French view the environment’s role in the construction of their national history and identity. Her research will also provide insight into French conservation strategies as they try to negotiate the interests of local residents, tourists, wildlife, biodiversity, and cultural preservation.