It is with great pride and humility that I write this letter this spring: pride in all the enriching initiatives being carried out by so many WIF members to further our mission to promote the study of French and Francophone women authors, the study of women’s place in French and Francophone cultures or literatures, and feminist literary criticism; and humility because I am somewhat removed from the process while on sabbatical in Rwanda. It is deeply gratifying to know that our organization has such a strong foundation it continues to thrive in spite of the geographic distance of its president. We have a solid financial base thanks both to our strong membership numbers (437 members at last count) and the income from Project Muse, which also provides visibility and recognition for our highly selective and well-respected journal, Women in French Studies. Our well-functioning organizational structure provides opportunities for many different people to become involved at different levels in the various sectors of our activity. I would like to thank everyone who has taken an active part in Women in French this year!
I am also very excited about the future of Women in French. I believe that women’s place in French and Francophone cultures and literatures will become even more prominent over the coming decade. Here in Rwanda, where women have a strong voice both in private and public sphere (over 67% of members of parliament), women are also making their voices heard in the field of literature, both in the Rwandan diaspora and at home in the land of a thousand hills. They are telling their stories and the stories of their people, from the horrors of the genocide to inspiring tales of recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation.
Within our organization, we also have exciting plans for the near future. Here are a few of the highlights:
Michèle Schaal is organizing the 10th International Women in French Conference at Iowa State University, May 14-16, 2020, with the help of Arline Cravens and Susan Ireland. The theme “Les Voix et voies des marges” addresses the fact that while the number of women authors on the French and Francophone literary scene has increased significantly literary scene has increased significantly over the last several decades, they are still marginalized in the literary world and in the transmission of cultural heritage. However, as posited by African-American feminist and philosopher bell hooks, being on the margins may constitute a powerful tool for creating awareness and protest. The 2020 WIF Conference will examine voices and pathways from the margins, as well as diverse forms of marginality. Confirmed plenary speakers include Anne Donadey (San Diego State University) and writer Claire Legendre (Université de Montréal). In addition, Claire Legendre’s novel L’Écorchée vive (2009) has been chosen for the One Book, One WIF initiative for the 2020 WIF conference.
The organizers of the conference are all long-term WIF members who exemplify the spirit of service that characterizes our organization. Michèle Schaal is an Associate Professor of French and Women’s and Gender Studies at Iowa State University and has been a member of WIF for 10 years. From 2011 to 2018, she was the WIF Webpage, Listserv and Social Media Manager. Arline Cravens is an Assistant Professor of French at Saint Louis University and the current regional Women in French representative for the Central and Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association regions. Beginning as a Graduate Student representative for Women in French, she has served as the RMMLA regional representative for 9 years. Susan Ireland is Orville and Mary Patterson Routt Professor of Literature (French) at Grinnell College. She has also been actively involved in WIF since she was a graduate student, taking on the role of co-Vice President (2000-2002, 2015-2019), and Editorial Board member of WIF Studies since 1999. Many thanks to Michèle, Arline and Susan for all their service to Women in French!
In her role as WIF Webpage, Listserv and Social Media Manager, Michèle Schaal also started work on developing a new website for the organization, a monumental job that was taken over last year by Leah Holz. Thanks to Leah’s hard work and dedication to the project, the new website will be launched in 2019! The new site will be more user-friendly, more functional, and easier for membership maintenance. [Editor’s note: Leah stepped down from her position on June 1, 2019; Raquelle K. Bostow is now serving in this role.]
Juliette Rogers and her team have also been hard at work on our journal Women in French Studies. She wishes to express her gratitude to all the WIF members who sent proposals for the 2022 Special Topics volume. The WIF Studies Editorial Board voted for the topic "Vous êtes drôle pour une fille: Funny Women in French from the Salon to Youtube" proposed by Cheryl Morgan, the editor of the WIF Newsletter. This year's special volume of WIF Studies will be a collection of selected essays from the 2018 WIF conference in Tallahassee. The volume is being co-edited by Aimée Boutin, Reinier Leushuis, and Julia Frengs, and they are planning to have the volume ready in Fall 2019. The regular annual volume for 2019 is also proceeding apace, with several articles already accepted on topics including Madame de Staal-Delaunay, Suzanne Césaire, and Valérie Trierweiler. We also have two special dossiers planned for 2019: the first is focused on Andrée Chédid, edited by Joëlle Vitiello, and the second is focused on narratives of disaster "au féminin" edited by Julia Frengs. We hope to have the annual volume ready for members in December 2019. Many thanks to Juliette, the editorial board, and all the authors who contribute to the journal!
As you are probably aware from the number of Calls for Papers we receive through the WIF listserv, our regional representatives have all been active this year planning WIF sessions at the regional MLAs. Our presence at these conferences has grown over the past decade thanks in large part to Arline Cravens who managed to create a mini Women in French conference at the RMMLA conference. During her tenure as regional representative, Women in French sessions at the RRMLA increased from 3 sessions to 12 sessions, with attendees from all over the US, Canada and Europe. Arline also instituted an annual Women in French Reception at the RMMLA, inviting prominent and long-standing Women in French members as guest speakers. These receptions have turned into an event that promotes the best of Women in French, and also serve as a venue to recruit new members to WIF. Following Arline’s model, other regional representatives have now also succeeded in increasing the presence of Women in French in other regions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Arline for her nine years of service as the RMMLA regional representative; she will be stepping down at the end of this year in order to pass the torch to someone new.
Interest in WIF sessions in other regions has also been strong this year. This year Mercedes Baillargeon received about forty submissions of very high quality for the three WIF sponsored sessions at the NeMLA conference at the University of Buffalo in March 2019. In the fall, we will have several WIF sessions at SCMLA in Little Rock Arkansas, four WIF session at both the MMLA Convention in Chicago Illinois and the PAMLA Conference in San Diego California, and seven WIF sessions at the SAMLA conference taking place in Atlanta, Georgia! We also received a great number of excellent submissions for the WIF-sponsored session at the national MLA conference in Seattle in January 2020. The session, which is organized and chaired by Viviana Pezzullo, a PhD candidate in Comparative Studies at Florida Atlantic University, is entitled The Human Body and Gendered Technology in the French and Francophone Traditions. Thank you to all the regional representatives, as well as to all the members who participate in all our WIF-sponsored sessions as organizers, chairs, and presenters!
Women in French continues to provide many opportunities to graduate students and early career scholars. For example, our Graduate Student representative, Tessa Nunn, organizes a Writing Exchange, and our Vice-Presidents, Susan Ireland and Patrice Proulx, coordinate mentoring and mock interview programs. We offer travel grants for WIF sessions at ML A conferences, as well as for the WIF conference, and we have two essay awards, one for undergraduates and the other for graduate students. Finally, at the 2020 WIF Conference, graduate students or faculty in their first 5 years of teaching will have the opportunity to submit their essay for the Early Career Conference Paper Award. I would also like to encourage graduate students and early career scholars to keep your eyes open for ways to get more involved with Women in French. You are the future of our organization!
I wish you all a productive and enriching spring and summer.
Newsletter Volume 33, Number 1