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Franco American Gathering, May 20-22, 2011

The Living Past: Franco American Identity in the Modern World

May 20-22, 2011 in Orono, ME

Opening event on May 20, 2011 in Soderburg Hall on the University of Maine campus in Orono.

What is the significance of Franco American culture today?  What is a Franco American identity?  How is it experienced?  How is it shared?  The Living Past: Franco American Identity in the Modern World will explore the contemporary expression of Franco American culture through roundtable conversations, storytelling, dramatic performances, music, and art.

Some of the leading voices of the Franco American experience will share their work and invite participants to explore their cultural identity. In addition to scheduled events, there will be numerous opportunities for informal exchanges during our weekend together. It is our goal to build new foundations for the future of Franco American communities.

This gathering is generously funded by the Centre de la Francophonie des Amériques (Québec).  There is a nominal registration fee of $100 which covers all dramatic performances, discussions, readings, receptions, lodging, meals, as well as the Saturday night dance party with live bands.

For further details concerning registration and a list of participants, see conference website.


New Online Franco-American Virtual Resource Launched

Teachers, researchers, historians, genealogists and Franco-Americans, among others, have a new online bibliographical website to connect them to references and resources about everything Franco-American.

Created through and collaboratively managed at the University of Maine Franco-American Centre, the newFranco American virtual Library contains lists and links to journal articles, published papers, dissertation, biographies, fiction and non-fiction, periodicals, artwork and audio and video materials about Franco-American life, culture and history.

The project is a unique endeavor, according to Franco-American Centre Director Yvon Labbé, because it is designed for use by members of all communities, in addition to Franco-Americans, and scholars, who are invited to add to the website anything they believe to be of relevance to Franco-American culture and history. It becomes a much more diversified, collective and open-ended resource, he says.

“What’s unique here isn’t just the content,” Labbé says, “it’s the process, as well. I find this whole thing very exciting, because Maine has not always been successful in mirroring Maine for Maine.”

A third of the state’s population is Franco-American, according to Labbé and senior faculty associate of the Centre Tony Brinkley, also an English professor.

Brinkley says the new website is a significant transition for the Franco-American Centre because it is taking 40 years worth of work at the Centre and putting it online, where it is universally accessible.

“As things go out and are accessible, it will have an impact on teachers and students in public schools,” Labbé adds — a much quicker dissemination process than revising and publishing printed material like textbooks.

A catalog of resources for Franco-American studies that’s linked to URSUS and to the Maine State library, the website categorizes annotates in a virtual collection of items by genre and theme, assigns each item geographic tags, and indicates in which library or public collection each item might be found.

“Up until now, there has been no way to find things written about Franco-Americans,” says Susan Pinette, director of Franco-American studies at UMaine. “This resource has been sorely needed by everyone — both academic and community-based researchers.”

The Library of Congress recently came up with a subject heading a few years ago, Pinette says, but even so, “if you type in ‘Franco American’ into most library catalogs, you get books written about French-U.S. diplomacy. There is no way to find Franco-American authors. Even with the Library of Congress designator, it is tough to find Franco-American fiction.”

Pinette, Labbé and Brinkley have worked for the past year with independent researcher and website architect Jacob Albert of Augusta to create the comprehensive online bibliography. The Québec-based Centre de la Francophonie des Amériques provided the funding. The Québec centre is dedicated to developing a promising future for the Maine French language in the context of cultural diversity by enhancing relationships among Francophones and Francophiles of Québec, Canada and the Americas, according to its mission statement.

Albert says the resource currently is populated by materials relative to Franco-American interests in Maine, New England and pushing west, but will grow nationally through public use and user submissions. “Once this becomes more public, we hope folks will get excited about it and help us add to it,” he says.

Its production also was made possible by the support of Chez Nous, a chapter of Royal Arcanum-ACA, formerly known as Association Canado-Américaine.


Book Launch

January 29, 2008 Contact: Susan Pinette, 581-3791 Orono

A group of University of Maine faculty members who are among the authors of a recently published collection of essays, stories, plays, poetry, songs and art that reflect Franco-American life and culture in Maine will read from their work Feb. 14 at 12:15 p.m. at the Franco American Centre on the Orono campus.

Voyages: A Maine Franco-American Reader was published in 2007 by Tilbury House in Gardiner. Among the coauthors are Rhea Cote Robbins, adjunct professor of Women’s Studies and Franco American Studies; Yvon Labbe, director the Franco American Centre; Kristin Langellier, professor of Communication and Journalism; Jim Bishop, a Continuing and Distance Education faculty member; and Nelson Madore, a Thomas College professor and former Waterville mayor.

The book was edited by Madore and Barry Rodrigue, a professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College.

The Feb. 14 event also will celebrate the publication of French Connections: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets, a collection of Franco American poetry.

The public is invited to the Feb. 14 reading and book signing. Books will be available for purchase.

Public Invited to UMaine Franco American Centre Mardi Gras Celebration of Traditional Food, Culture

Media contact: George Manlove at (207) 581-3756

ORONO – Mouth-watering aromas of North American French cuisine – including succulent tourtière (meat pie), chicken stew, salmon pie and desserts – will permeate the atmosphere in the UMaine Franco-American Centre at Crossland Hall Feb. 24, as the centre invites the public to help celebrate Mardi Gras from noon to 3 p.m. The event is free.

For students, staff, faculty and members of the public, the afternoon will be an unusual opportunity to sample a buffet of traditional North American French cooking. For people who have never tried French-Canadian tourtière or cretons/cortons, a popular paté or pork spread, this is the time to try it, says Lisa Desjardins Michaud, the Franco-American Centre’s communications coordinator. The afternoon also will feature the traditional and easy-to-prepare pancake-like Acadian ployes, and traditional home-style baked beans. Desserts include molasses cookies, mini cream puffs, mini éclairs, and date squares. The event also is a time to learn about Mardi Gras from the Franco-American perspective, according to Michaud, and to experience the raison d’être of the Franco-American Centre. “This is an opportunity for people in the area who are of French-Canadian descent to taste and experience la culture des ancêtres, in a friendly, casual, warm ambiance,” says Michaud. “This is a celebration.” Mardi Gras at the Franco-American Centre will bring French tradition to the campus, she adds. “It’s important to celebrate and to create awareness of our culture at the University of Maine.”

Mardi Gras, translated, means Fat Tuesday. It is a day of feasting and celebration before Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, the traditional Catholic period of abstinence and fasting. Mardi Gras is celebrated 47 days before Easter. Michaud, who personally will contribute food to the feast, is working with a team of volunteers from the community and the university, in addition to the University of Maine campus catering service, which will prepare some of the food in the North-American French tradition.

And for a literary pièce de résistance, which will provide a taste of Franco-American culture, Kristin Langellier and Eric Peterson, of the UMaine Communications & Journalism Department, will sign copies of their new book “Storytelling in Daily Life,” which explores various forms of narratives and storytelling, including Maine Franco-Americans’ personal histories as preserved through family storytelling.

For additional information, Michaud is available by telephone at (207) 581-3789. The Franco-American Centre, located in Crossland Hall next to Alfond Arena, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

French diplomat speaks at UMaine Differing opinions on Iraq discussed

By Anthony Saucier, Of the NEWS Staff

Differing views on the war with Iraq cannot be allowed to upset long-term collaborations between the United States and France, according to the French diplomat for New England. Speaking at a reception at the Franco-American Centre at the University of Maine, Thierry Vankerk-Hoven, the Consul General of France in Boston, said that the period of differences soon would be history. “We have lived through a very difficult time in our bilateral mediations,” Vankerk-Hoven said to the two dozen people at the center. “France and the U.S. have to work together to fight the threat of terrorism. The important thing is to maintain a close dialog.” While the French government didn’t support the U.S.-led war with Iraq, the two countries maintain similar philosophies. “The United States and France can have differing opinions,” Vankerk-Hoven said. “We share the same values and principles on the defense of freedom.”

In his first trip to Maine since taking office six months ago, Vankerk-Hoven spent the day talking to Gov. John Baldacci and legislators in Augusta about the present climate of French-American relations and the preservation of Franco-American culture. Originally from Paris, Vankerk-Hoven previously served at French embassies in Madrid, London and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He said after the reception that he hasn’t really experienced the ‘French bashing’ felt by French people in other parts of the country. Similarly, ‘freedom fries’ and other antagonisms just don’t make sense, he said. “It’s ridiculous to have this sort of reaction at this point, especially when we have had such a long history of collaboration,” Vankerk-Hoven said. Close cooperation between the two countries is necessary to solve regional crises such as the Middle East conflict, Vankerk-Hoven said. “The important thing now is to work together and try to adopt a common position in the challenges we will face,” he said.

Franco American Studies
5742 Little Hall, Room 213
Orono, Maine 04469-5742
Phone: (207) 581-3791 | Fax: (207) 581- 1832
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469