Pascale-Anne Brault brings her passions—for France, for language (especially French), for literature (especially American and francophone), for philosophy (contemporary), and for expansive, open-minded, multicultural thinking—to her work as a teacher, scholar and translator.
As a teacher, she feels it’s not enough for her students to learn French as a language; she also wants them to experience language as an expression of a society and a culture. After helping create the study abroad in France program, she leveraged a relationship with Sciences Po, the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, an elite school for the study of social sciences, to give students an opportunity to study there for a semester or longer.
“To know another language is to know another way of thinking, another way of looking at the world and another way of reflecting on one’s own culture,” she says. That’s a lesson she’s lived herself. After earning a Diplôme d'Etudes Approfondies from the Université de Paris, Sorbonne, Brault moved to the United States to study comparative literature at New York University. “I want my students—in fact, I want all DePaul students—to have some experience studying abroad. A personal understanding of other places and cultures is part of what it means to be competitive today. Wouldn’t it be nice if a few dollars of each student’s tuition could be put aside for study abroad, so that every student at DePaul could participate?”
Brault—a professor and director of the French program—also finds ways to engage students with French culture close to home. For example, four are doing internships at the French consulate; two others will soon be working with the Délégation de Québec in Chicago. She works closely with the French consulate and with the Allianҫe Francaise to bring speakers to campus and to take students to off-campus events, most recently a French play performed in French.
In her scholarship, Brault is a renowned translator of French philosophers Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) and Barbara Cassin (1947-present). Brault and Michael Naas, a professor in philosophy, translate the writings of Jacques Derrida (and others), working together to create English editions that are both creative and accurate.
“Translation is always interpretation, and every translator has to make choices to stay faithful to concepts as well as words,” she says about the challenges of this work. “I’m fortunate because the best way to translate is on a team, and the best team has a person in each language.” For her translation of La Nostalgie by Barbara Cassin, Brault won the 2015 Grand Prize from French Voices (Cultural Services of the French Embassy, in partnership with the PEN American Center). Of her skill, Thomas Lay, the acquisitions editor at Fordham University Press, said “No one understands better than Cassin the way in which translation activates meaning, rather than merely conveying it, and no one accomplishes this activation better than Pascale-Anne.”
Brault also teaches translation courses, sharing with students her love of the process and preparing them for possible careers in this fast-growing profession. Brault’s students have worked with DePaul's Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic, the Pan-African Association, the Kovler Center for Survivors of Torture and the G8 Summit. Recently, her class translated the grade 1-6 curriculum for a school in Haiti (l'Ecole de Choix, founded by Laura Hartman, Vincent de Paul Professor of Business Ethics), more than 500 pages of challenging text that’s now being used to develop programs and train teachers.
And, in yet one more way to engage and immerse students in learning French, Brault oversees the publication of Mille-Feuille Magazine Littéraire—“A real source of pride,” she says—a journal of poems, prose and translations of students, faculty, staff and alumni (http://via.library.depaul.edu/millefeuille/).
Each year, the third-year French students compose texts and evaluate those submitted by others; for the most recent edition, they discussed and evaluated close to 300 submissions. “In this effort, the students play with French, learn to hear it in a different way, and become discerning about the qualities of the language in practice. They get outside the box of conventional learning,” says Brault. Then, they produce the journal—getting grants and advertisers, choosing the cover art and doing the typesetting.
Her passion for all things French has been duly noted. In 2005, Brault was recognized by the Ordre des Palmes Académiques, an exclusive distinction among academics and champions of French culture. And in 2013, she was named a chevalier (knight) in the Ordre National du Mérite, a rare and prestigious honor that recognizes distinguished service to France.
Photo: DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief