French Studies professor analyzes works of Chris Marker

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

Professor Hervé Picherit, candidate for the Modernist position in French Studies for the UT Department of French and Italian, visited UT to give a presentation discussing the work of French writer and director Chris Marker.

Raised in Laramie, Wyoming by French-speaking parents, Picherit is currently an assistant professor of French at the University of Wyoming. Picherit’s teaching interests center around Early Modern French Literature.

“[UT] seems like it would be a very good opportunity professionally, and a very nice place to be,” Picherit said.

David Birdsong, chair of the French and Italian department, said the Modernist position requires a selective process. A committee narrowed down fifteen choices out of 135 applications for the position.

“We interviewed these fifteen at the Modern Language Association Convention in Seattle,” Birdsong said. “Three were chosen for on-campus interviews.” Picherit is the first of the three interviews.

Picherit gave a presentation titled “Chris Marker’s Madeleine: Proust, Hitchcock and the Labyrinth of Memory,” in which he explored the works La Jetée and Immemory by Chris Marker. Marker’s work highlights the connection between Marcel Proust’s novel “À la recherche du temps perdu” and the Alfred Hitchcock film “Vertigo.”

Picherit’s presentation speculated on Hitchcock and Proust’s individual uses of a “Madeleine” figure in their works and suggested a virtual link between the artists’ conception of memory and time. He also attempted to answer the question posed by Marker, “What is a Madeleine?”

“It is not Hitchcock’s Madeleine or Proust’s Madeleine, but Marker’s Madeleine that has sort of escaped the art house aesthetic and jumped onto the cinematic mainstream,” Picherit said.

The public lecture was attended by both faculty and students from the Department of French and Italian. Italian and Comparative Literature professor Daniela Bini said that even those without a focus on French literature were able to gain valuable insight from the presentation.

“I thought it was extremely clever, that he not only made references to modern literature but also to Hollywood because his talk was about Hitchcock as well as Proust,” Bini said. “It was quite inspiring, even though it was not in my field. It was about French literature and I am in Italian, but I thought it was well done.”