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From the Front: Private Lives and Personal Letters in World War I

November 16, 2017 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

This lecture will take place from 5-6:30pm in FedEx Global Education Center room 1005.

The First World War created massive divisions in the lives of families. In France, indeed, at least five million couples experienced separation during the four years of war. Most of these couples pursued their private lives by exchanging letters. The amount of conjugal correspondence written between 1914 and 1918 provides historians with an unprecedented quantity of sources, enabling the analysis of feelings expressed by couples about separation, at once a widely shared and eminently private experience.

In a joint presentation in English, the speakers will consider the theme of separation in its larger dimensions, before turning to a case study to address the specific question of death as it was experienced, awaited, and feared in the exchanged letters. The correspondence between a young Durkheimian sociologist who died at the front, Robert Hertz, and his wife Alice, demonstrates how a radicalization in epistolary form can lead to a shared sacrifice.
The presentation will be followed by a Q&A.

Clémentine Vidal-Naquet is associate professor of history at the Université de Picardie Jules Verne in Amiens and the author of Couples dans la Grande Guerre. Le tragique et l’ordinaire du lien conjugal and Correspondances conjugales. 1914-1918. Dans l’intimité de la Grande Guerre, both published in 2014.

Nicolas Mariot is a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, CNRS, the Université de Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He is the author of, most recently, Tous unis dans la tranchée ? 1914-1918, les intellectuels rencontrent le peuple (2013) and Histoire d’un sacrifice. Robert, Alice et la guerre (1914-1917) (2017).

Coordinated by the Duke Center for French and Francophone Studies and the UNC Center for European Studies. Sponsored by the French Embassy in Washington. This is one of a number of lectures by young French scholars delivered all over the United States as part of the observance of the centennial of the First World War.


November 16, 2017
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm


FedEx Global Center #1005
301 Pittsboro St
Chapel Hill, NC 27514 United States
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