Paris Blues


~ Natalie Dykstra, Professor of English

When remembering our travels in Paris in May, I think first of the many days with beautiful blue skies that seemed bluer somehow, maybe because Paris is an expert in blues.  Shades of the color are everywhere one looks – from gothic stained-glass windows to enormous doors to these fashion plates on the outer walls of one of city’s oldest restaurants, Lapérouse, started in the 18th century.

We had a terrific second year doing primary source research at the American Library in Paris.  Students Aine O’Connor and Hannah Jones worked in the library’s special collections, where they catalogued books once owned by Janet Flanner, an American writer who published under the nom de plume Genêt in The New Yorker.  They updated the project’s Archive Stories website with a fascinating biographical essay on Flanner; their detailed finding aid to her book collection can be found here.  I’m grateful for their professional-level work, their enthusiasm for Paris, and their excellent company!

Kelly and I

Kelly and Natalie

Kelly Jacobsma, Dean of Libraries at Hope College, joined our team this year.  She provided key advice for all aspects of research and kept us on track.  As her admiring colleague and friend, I have to say she also made everything even more fun!  Thank you, Kelly!  Read more about her foray to another Paris library here.

As a group, we were able to attend a remarkable performance by Hope Dance Leap of Faith May Term, directed by Linda Graham, at the Centre de Danse du Marais, with a variety of extraordinary pieces choreographed by such artists as Graham and recent Hope alumni Lachan Jaarda and Emily Mejicano-Gormley.

at the danc

Heidi, Natalie, Kelly, and Lauren at the dance performance   

None of this would have been possible without my Paris Stories colleagues, Heidi Kraus and Lauren Janes, who are co-directors of Hope’s Paris May Term.  Our conversations, with Kelly joining us, about history and art and literature wove through our time together in the city, enlivening everything we saw.  My students and I are also grateful for the financial support from Mellon Foundation|Grand Challenges, a college-wide initiative directed by my department colleagues, Bill Pannapacker and Curtis Gruenler.  Thank you for your strong support and belief in the value of this sort of faculty/student collaboration.

Finally, innumerable thanks for the generous hospitality of everyone at the American Library in Paris, most especially Assistant Director Abigail Altman, our point person, and Director Audrey Chapuis.  We believe that building global institutional affliations, such as this one, is essential for the best possible education.  Thank you for making it a reality.

In the 1920s, Janet Flanner wrote that Paris had what America “hungered for.  Repressed by generations of Puritanism, it longed for bright, visible, and blatant beauty presented in a public form….”  A last look at some of favorite scenes and images from Paris, May 2019. Until next year!

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