Monday, June 2, 2014

"So why are you going to France again?"

Monday, June 2.

In exactly one week, I'll be on my way to the airport to start the first leg in another six weeks of adventures in France. I know, I can't believe it either ... but I've been back in the United States for over five months now, so I figure it's time my passport got some use.

Throughout the past couple of months, I haven't had a lot of time to talk (or blog ... whoops) about my summer research. I obviously appreciate any and everyone who has shown even the slightest bit of interest in my upcoming travels, but the "So why are you going to France again?" question got old pretty quickly ... mostly because I didn't have an answer! I wrote proposal when I submitted my scholarship application back in October, but the entire project has been undergoing a massive transformation since last fall. The general themes of the project have stayed the same, but most of my ideas have evolved or changed. If you asked me even a month ago what exactly I was researching or where I'd be going to do it, I wouldn't have been able to tell you.

Of course, with my trip is less than 10 days away, I do have a couple more details. Keep reading to learn about what, why, and where I will be researching over the next two months!

Why I'm Going
When it comes to spending a summer travelling through Europe, "why?" is much more of a "why not?" (As in "Well Elisabeth, WHY NOT spend six weeks of your summer in France?") So when people ask me why I'm going back to France, I have a feeling what they really want to know is how. (As in "So Elisabeth, HOW are you paying for those six weeks in France?") As you can read here, my summer adventures are the happy result of two generous scholarships: the Upperclassman Monroe Project research grant and the McCormack-Reboussin Scholarship. In addition to covering my travel and research expenses, these scholarships will also contribute to tuition for my senior year! I know that this opportunity would have been unthinkable without the financial support of both of these resources, so I'm very grateful.

Short answer: Every year, William & Mary French Department sponsors one student to travel to a French-speaking country and conduct research for an honors thesis ... and this year, that student is me!

What I'm Researching
My honors thesis was always going to be about post-World War II France. I've been fascinated by the topic since middle school and my freshman Monroe Project only helped to further convince me that memory of the war was what I wanted to study. The project description that I submitted back in October proposed an analysis of WWII monuments in France, but during discussions with my project advisor, I realized the topic wasn't quite right. Instead of monuments, I decided to look at war museums. As it is currently planned, my research will examine the institution of the World War II museum in France. In my research, I hope to examine the complex mechanics of collective memory through a study of French museums dedicated to WWII. My research will be particularly focused on the role of the museum in the evolution of what has come to be known by many as the “Resistance Myth,” which posits that a romanticized idea of the French Resistance as a national movement was perpetuated by French leaders at the end of the war in an attempt to unify a nation in crisis. Through a study of collective memory and war museum, my research will examine the endurance, eventual discrediting, repositioning, and current status of this Resistance Myth. My working thesis is that there is a direct relationship between the breakdown of French collective memory relative to the Resistance Myth that occurred in the 1970s and the proliferation of French WWII museums erected in the 1980s. My research will endeavor to prove this and to uncover the exact nature of this connection.

If you didn't make it all the way through the entirety of my project proposal, here's the short answer: I'm studying the history of World War II museums in France and what they reveal about how the French people view the war itself.

Where I'm Going
I'll be in France for just under six weeks, the beginning and tail end of which will be spent in Paris. When I'm not in the capital, I'll be travelling: spending time in Lyon, Bordeaux, and La Rochelle and taking day trips to other cities like Grenoble and Caen. These cities were picked after a lot of research because they're all home to important WWII museums, like Le Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation in Grenoble and Le Bunker de La Rochelle. The map below shows all the places I'm going to be; I'll update you soon with a more detailed itinerary!

I'm not certain how I feel about it (my primary emotions are excitement and total panic), but I do know that this trip has been a long time coming. In fact, it's been over a year since I first started thinking about going abroad to research an honors thesis. So why does it feel like it's all snuck up on me so quickly?!

1 comment:

  1. What an adventure! Thank goodness for computers and cell phones! It helps knowing I'll be able to be in touch with you daily. You will learn so much, about your subject sure, but a lot about yourself too. You are a strong young lady and I couldn't be more proud of you!