Winter term 2015: students study literature and culture in Paris

Students participating in Paris: Cultural Capital Winter Term program
Students participating in Paris: Cultural Capital Winter Term program

by Eric Rubeo, English Department Intern

Eighteen Miami University students had the opportunity to study in the heart of the City of Lights as part of the inaugural Paris: Cultural Capital Winter Term program in January 2015. Students were enrolled in both English professor Katie Johnson’s ENG 163: Midnight in Paris and French professor Elisabeth Hodges’ FRE 131: Masterworks of French Culture in Translation, learning what it’s like to be an American living in Paris throughout the ages.

Students said the experience was both culturally enlightening and deeply challenging. Sara Schindler, a senior Linguistics major, called it "a one-of-a-kind experience."

Olivia Vandervoort, junior English literature minor said, "My favorite part of Paris: Cultural Capital was the freedom we had to discover and get to know the city on our own. The magical times when we found new favorite spots and saw amazing things were some of the most memorable."

When asked of the intensive nature of taking two courses in such a compressed time, Schindler said, "It really was a challenge, but this trip was also the most rewarding experiences of my life. The fact that I was able to persevere and manage my time to get all of my readings done…it was just something I’m going to carry with me throughout my entire education at Miami."

When asked what first inspired this study abroad approach, Johnson said, "We wanted to give students the opportunity to not just live in the city, but also think about what it means to be an American abroad—specifically an American in Paris. We wanted a program that would look at the city as a base of experience for the texts that we were studying, and so Paris: Cultural Capital arose out of this idea of using Paris as almost an experiential laboratory for the abroad experience."

To meet this end, Johnson required her students to read famous works of literature by American authors set in and heavily influenced by the city of Paris. They studied Earnest Hemingway’sA Moveable Feast, Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, and Edith Wharton’s Madame de Treymesalong with other books and media. 

"We saw the homes of the legendary authors we were learning about, and got to walk the same streets where historical events have taken place," Vandervoort said. "This just put everything into context and gave us a better perspective and sense of place."

"I loved being able to read these books and stories in Paris where the authors actually wrote the works," Schindler said. "We took a walking tour of Hemingway’s Paris to see the locations of some of his favorite bars and cafes and we visited Gertrude Stein’s old residence and it was wonderful."

Applications for the Winter 2016 Paris: Cultural Capital program will be accepted on a first come first served basis until September 1, 2015.  Contact Elisabeth Hodges or Kathleen Johnson with any inquiries.