Axel Maugey

Axel Maugey, Ph.D., University of the Sorbonne, is a writer, essayist and critic. He has been teaching courses in French civilization, French cinema, and civilizations of the francophone world at McGill University since 1971.  He has been a member of a small group of scholars who have been defending the cultural reputation of Québec since the early ‘70s. He is the author of a work published in 1972 in Québec entitled Poésie et Société (Poetry and Society), a new edition of which has been published, entitled La Poésie Moderne Québécoise (Modern Québécois Poetry). Over the years he has written a number of articles on Quebec and the francophony in the newspapers Le Devoir, Le Droit, and Le Figaro, in journals such as La Revue des Deux Mondes, Vie des Arts, Culture Française, Universités, Revue de l’Amopa, Bulletin Critique du Livre Français, Liaison, and in other, co-authored works. In 1989, Vers l’Entente Francophone (Toward the Francophone Understanding), was published by the Office of the French Language. It was at that time that he held the chair for Francophone Studies at Grenoble, before giving a series of courses at the University of Chiba in Japan. In his books, articles, and essays, this specialist of the place held by the French language and culture in the world is a tireless observer and commenter upon the varied experiences of francophones, both in France and elsewhere.

A Chevalier in the Order of the Legion of Honor, in the Order of les Arts et lettres, a Commander in the Order of Les Palmes Académiques, Axel Maugey was awarded the prestigious Prix des Palmes de la Francophonie in 1993 for Le Roman de la Francophonie (The Novel of the Francophony) and the Romain Rolland Prize in 1997 for Des Québécois à Hong Kong (Québécois in Hong Kong).

He is corresponding member of the European Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, and of the Québécois Writers’ Union.




This lecture will be a promenade through the very heart of the eighteenth century, when all cultured Europeans were burning to live happily and spiritually in French, fascinated as they were by Paris and Versailles, the nerve-centers of networks that covered the entire European continent.
In this address, crowned heads, great writers (Diderot,Voltaire, Beaumarchais, etc), princes, field-marshals, gentlemen and ladies of quality, shall parade for our greatest pleasure.
This “French Century” (1713 to 1814) which believed in “happiness on this earth” reminds us that in  the United States of America, this “daughter of the eighteenth century” still bears that mark to our days.
For short, at the heart of this European and western theatre glitters the French language, not just as a language of communication, but as the language of polite conversation, of literature, of diplomacy…in a word the language of spirit.


The lecturer will highlight the major periods of French civilization from the century of Enlightenment onwards, stressing among other topics the Napoleonic saga, the great discoveries and steps forward during the 19th century, before proposing on the one hand a swift synthesis of the troubled 20th century and presenting on the other the challenges facing France and  Europe at the beginning of the 21st century.
A country certainly highly cultured, known for its writers and artists of universal repute, France also places itself forward as a country enriched by numerous technological achievements.
Leader of the French speaking world, the nation so dear to General de Gaulle must now reform itself, in order to better meet the political and cultural challenges created by the growth of a world economy.


For mutual understanding one must evidently know one another. The first part of this lecture will, therefore, evoke the great historical events which enabled both countries to appreciate each other despite their differences. There is no doubt that the secret of useful dialogue lies in mastering “transcultural exchange”, i.e., exchange of information across cultural barriers.
Concrete examples will shed some light upon those differences: they will be drawn from fundamental topics such as love, money, friendship and work.
Then, in second part, Protestant America will mingle with Catholic France, and the intellectual  Frenchman who loves to criticize will dialogue with the more practical American, lover of consensus.
In fact, answers can be found within the field of education: it varies from one country to the next and will most often determine the evolution and the “world perception” of each one of us.
When all is said and done, doesn’t friendship result from dialogue?


Québec in Canada, the United States, Mexico, countries of  Central and South America, not to mention the islands of the West-Indies and “Saint Pierre et Miquelon,”all those countries, provinces and départements offer a French variant, French-speaking and French-loving, which deserves to be better known. Broadly, that is the topic of this lecture.
Today, more than ever, North America is rediscovering with amazement its very rich French past. This revival was announced some time ago by the “Quiet Revolution” in  Québec during the sixties.
Furthermore it is too often ignored that many Frenchmen have been doing “public relations,” that
is to say, they have been conveying Americans, from both northern and southern hemispheres to France, starting with Tocqueville and continuing with Saint-Exupéry, Jean Cassou, Roger Caillois, Georges Bernanos, Saint John Perse, Jules Supervielle, Simone de Beauvoir, all the way up to Bernard-Henri Lévy.
It is not astonishing that in the world of the Americas, French, the language of a civilization with great appeal, is becoming more and more a way of life, one among others, and a real reference in the field of linguistic and cultural diversity


In spite of criticisms (sometimes justified but more often than not superficial) which are made about France, one notices that there exists a very lively demand for French things in the World. How shall we explain it? First of all, through historical  reasons which we call to mind. Then, quite simply, with reasons that are linked to the creation of an exceptional way of life: a sense of refinement, artistic and scientific discoveries, the renown of its cooking, the qualities of French education, and the prestige associated with travel in France.
Lastly, it can be explained because France is thought of by many to be the country of culture, quality, a well-measured approach to life, and excellence.
All these reasons and still others explain the immense curiosity, sympathy, admiration and love evinced by so many for a country which, so often from its exceptional vantage point, is a forerunner of the best humanity has to offer.

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