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Lawrence Kritzman's Award Ceremony

Lawrence Kritzman’s Award Ceremony

Published on April 10, 2012
Speech by the Ambassador of France in the United States, Mr. François Delattre

New York, April 5, 2012


Professor Lawrence Kritzman,

If there is one American “fin connaisseur” (as we French people say), of France today, it’s you.

Currently the John D. Willard Professor of French, Comparative Literature, and Oratory at Dartmouth College, you specialize in a wide range of fields, from the French Renaissance to twentieth-century French thought, not to mention critical theory, cultural studies and Jewish studies.

Your expertise in this variety of French subjects is to a large extend unmatched.

Your writing covers the Mitterrand period, Foucault, Theorizing Renaissance Texts, Jews in France, and the American edition of Pierre Nora’s Realms of Memory, just to name a few subjects.

Pierre Nora is a great historian and thinker, so we won’t contradict him, especially when he says that you are more French than the French!

And despite your training as a scholar within a specific field, you appear as the exact opposite: an inclusive thinker with widespread knowledge of France’s contemporary and classical periods.

You have also renewed certain fields of French scholarship. For instance, you have enriched 16th-century French studies with your innovative readings of Montaigne, Rabelais, Marguerite de Navarre, Ronsard, Sceve and the “poètes rhétoriqueurs”.

And your last work on this period, The Fabulous Imagination, devoted to Montaigne’s Essays, has made this great humanist more contemporary by reading him in light of today’s “deconstructive” America.

Likewise, The Columbia History of Twentieth-Century French Thought, which you edited in 2006, sheds new light on French ideas through an American point of view.

By convincing American readers of the richness and the influence of French thought - in eight hundred ambitious pages (!)- you also proved that our pessimism about French intellectual life is wrong.

Altogether, this work, winner of three awards, is a testimony to the prolific nature of French-American intellectual relations.

Cher Professeur Kritzman, not only is your scholarship unique, but your academic reputation is international.

Indeed, your career includes several stays as a visiting professor in some of the greatest American and French institutions, notably Harvard and Stanford University, the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, where you held the position of Director of Studies in 2010.

As an important figure of French-American cultural exchanges, your influence extends far beyond the academic realm with media interviews on French politics, culture and thought, for Le Monde and Liberation among others.

As Dartmouth’s former director of the Institute of European Studies, you have always been at the forefront of the College’s European partnerships.

Since the beginning, and under your leadership, the Institute has been a bridge between the social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities, engaging all of Dartmouth’s departments, programs and divisions.

Your colleague Ed Berger, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, declared that your work had brought great distinction to Dartmouth, and qualified you - and I quote - as “a true luminary, both in France specifically and in the European world of public intellectuals in general.”
And that’s not all.

Since 1989, you have been the editor of European Perspectives, a social philosophy and cultural criticism series published by Columbia University Press. Through European Perspectives, you have served as a cultural ambassador between Europe and the United States by publishing a myriad of French intellectuals, including Louis Althusser, Elizabeth Badinter, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Pierre Bourdieu, to name a few.

However, as the founder and director of Dartmouth’s Institute of French Cultural Studies, you have perhaps best shown your passionate involvement for France and cross-cultural exchanges.

Since 1994, you have organized ten summer institutes at Dartmouth, on a wide variety of subjects.

Altogether, the major goal of your Institute has been to allow its members to take part in contemporary cultural debates by developing courses in interdisciplinary studies taught in French. Who could imagine a better way to foster both cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural partnerships? So it should come as no surprise that your students chose you as Teacher of the Year at Dartmouth in 2006.

I was told that you love France so much that your ring tone is la “Marseillaise”!

Tonight, on behalf of my country, we are very proud to present you with the Legion of Honour.

Lawrence Kritzman, au nom du Président de la République, nous vous remettons les insignes de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

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