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Transfers and Mutations: Gestalt in Interwar France

April 22, 2019 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Image of a black & white M.C. Escher print: black background at the bottom grading to white background at the top. In the foreground are fish in white at the bottom transforming to birds in black at the top.
Image: “Sky and Water I.” M.C. Escher, Woodcut, June 1938. Image courtesy of the official M.C. Escher website.

Monday Seminar:

Florence Vatan

Resident Fellow (2018-2019)

French and Italian, UW-Madison


Which reconfigurations do concepts undergo when they cross national and disciplinary boundaries? How do they travel from one domain of investigation to another? I will address these questions by considering the early diffusion of Gestalt psychology in France in the 1920s and 1930s. Drawing on primary sources (lectures, translations, publications, course offerings), my focus will be on the role played by key “facilitators” such as the psychologist Paul Guillaume and the philosopher Aron Gurwitsch.


Florence Vatan is a Professor in the Department of French and Italian at UW-Madison and an affiliate in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic. She received her doctorate in Germanic Studies from the University of the Sorbonne, Paris 3, and her doctorate in French from the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the dialogues between literature, science, and philosophy in early twentieth-century Austrian and nineteenth-century French literatures and cultures. She has published Robert Musil et la question anthropologique (Presses Universitaires de France, 2000), Robert Musil, Le “virtuose de la distance” (Belin, 2013), as well as numerous essays on Flaubert, Baudelaire, Balzac, Musil, and Canetti. She has co-edited, with Anne Vila, a special issue of L’Esprit créateur on “L’Esprit (dé)réglé: Literature, Science, and The Life of the Mind in France, 1700-1900” (Winter 2016). With Marc Silberman, she has co-edited the collective volume Memory and Post-War Memorials. Confronting the Violence of the Past (Palgrave, 2013).


April 22, 2019
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States