Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Review of my Collège Lecture


As for the Collège, I enjoyed touring the premises, including the remarkable 13th c. remains recently uncovered in the basement. But at lunch I learned that when a professor at the Collège presents his ID card at the checkout counter of certain bookstores in the neighborhood in order to qualify for the academic discount, the cashier often fails to recognize France's most prestigious institution of higher learning. The name "collège" suggests a middle school, and the card is refused. Sic transit gloria mundi.

I very much enjoyed the extraordinary privilege of lecturing at this most august of junior high schools.


satchmo said...

Wonderful, Art, congratulations. Standing outside the Collège on the rue St. Jacques side, I like to recall the passage at the end of Canguilhem's "Qu'est-ce que la psychologie" where he closes with a reminder that it behooves us all to be vigilant about how knowledge is used. He says something to the effect of, "When you step outside on the rue St. Jacques, you can go uphill, where the Panthéon recognizes very some distinguished people, or you can go downhill, where you will surely wind up at the préfecture de police!" A nice image that sums up a great deal, especially if you know the local psychogeography.

Anonymous said...

The collège de France doesn't advertize itself to the unlearned & the "non-initiés". I don't mean to be polemical, as if to say "har-har, them snobs get what-fer' by not being able to buy books on the cheap at Gibert Joseph!"
Rather, knowledge of its existence and even where it is located is just not that "évidents". There is no public communication or outreach for such institutions - I don't think they would see the point in making themselves know to the general public either.

note to budding entrepreneurs looking to make money : the words "collège", "de", and "France" are public domain and can be slapped together on a t-shirt in any sort of combination. Especially one that evokes a certain prestigious institution nobody knows about ;-) !

Chris P.

satchmo said...

I'm not sure it's very accurate to say that the Collège doesn't advertise itself or is not interested in public communication and outreach. To the contrary, that's central to its mission. Giving lecture courses that are free and open to the public is required of those who hold chairs there. They don't give exams or degrees, but are charged with producing knowledge/research and making it available to the public. And they're more up to date and proactive about media outreach than most scholarly institutions.

They have an elaborate website (in French and in English) that archives the lectures and makes them available to you at your convenience. They also have a radio program on France Culture that broadcasts the lectures and streams them on the web, archiving them at France Culture as well. Hundreds of the lectures are available as podcasts on Itunes, and Gallimard partners with them to market and distribute CDs and DVDs of lectures. I wish my university put half as much energy and resources into public outreach of this kind.

Certainly it's an elite institution; but it does a great deal in the way of making its work publicly available to anyone who cares to listen.

MCG said...


Congratulations. That is an extraordinary honor.


Passerby said...

@Satchmo: yes, the College de France freely distributes its knowledge but I'm pretty sure the vast majority of French people don't know about this institution.

Personally I do not recall ever hearing about this institution before I stumbled upon the broadcast of Michel Onfray's conference on France Culture.
As much as I like this radio, I doubt it is the most popular station in the country.

By comparaison, the names of institutions such as la Sorbonne, l'Académie Française or la Comédie Française are widely known to the general public.