Professors Lauren S. Weingarden (Art History) and Aimée Boutin (Modern Languages) hosted the 45th Annual Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquium on October 31-November 2, 2019 in Sarasota, Florida. This conference was a unique collaborative effort between the departments of Art History and Modern Languages, the College of Fine Arts, the College of Arts and Sciences, and The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art. FSU undergraduate student interns and graduate assistants were vital members of the organizing team and the realization of the event.
The conference theme, Enchantment and Disenchantment, was inspired by the event’s location. Myths of Florida typecast the state as a land of enchantment, entertainment, and Disneyfication. One of Florida’s primary Gulf coast cities, Sarasota offers an eclectic blend of high culture and popular entertainment. Now part of the Florida State University, The Ringling Museum and the Ca’ d’Zan were built by the circus magnate, John Ringling, whose business claimed to deliver the “Greatest Show on Earth.” This location offered an opportunity to look back on the nineteenth-century origins of spectacles of technology and fantasy as well as the (dis)enchantment that they can provide.
The three-day colloquium gathered 253 attendees from 13 countries, who participated in 64 panels on a range of topics. These topics explored how nineteenth-century France was a time of confrontation between the age-old enchantment of faith, magic, and tradition, and the modern lure of rationalization, science, and innovation, leading to what Max Weber called the “disenchantment of the world.” The panels also addressed the nineteenth century as a period of developing technologies and economies of popular entertainment. Prof. Weingarden writes, “We explored enchantment as a reward system that delights and inspires, and as an enthrallment that constrains and inhibits.”
The keynote speaker, Elisabeth Fraser, Professor of Art History at University of South Florida (Tampa), addressed the topic of Orientalism, the nuances of cultural exchange, and the enchantment/disenchantment therein, in her presentation “Louis Dupré as Artist-Traveler in the Ottoman Empire.”
On Friday evening, conference participants were enchanted with a reception in the courtyard of The Ringling, with free access to the European galleries and to an exhibition of circus and popular entertainment prints titled “Le Tour du Monde” at the Tibbals Learning Center. The exhibition was specially curated for NCFS 2019 by FSU Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies interns, with the assistance of New College Prof. Katherine Brion and her students.
The conference concluded with two enchanting events–a bal masqué on Saturday evening and a guided tour on Sunday of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Orchid Show 2019: Blossoms Of Asia.