Q&A With Professor Michèle A. Schaal

CATEGORIES: October 2015

How did you decide to become a University professor?

An unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a reverence for arts and humanities at large. Ever since I was a child, I have always wanted to learn but also talk about the things I had learned. Unlike a pervasive myth, literature, the arts, the humanities—as well as Women’s and Gender studies—are not for leisure or entertainment only. They truly represent ways to depict and understand human societies. When classes on such matters are inclusive, they allow for a variety of perspectives that can only enrich students’ grasp of the world and fellow human beings. I hope my classes encourage my students to make any material their own and pursue their own quest for knowledge and for understanding what makes us—individually and communally—who we are.

What do you consider to be your most notable professional achievement?

In summer 2015, I submitted my very first book manuscript: Une troisième vague féministe et littéraire (A Third Feminist and Literary Wave) and it is now under peer-review. In France, the 1990s constituted a crucial era both for feminism and literary history. Indeed, this decade witnessed the emergence of a new generation of women writers, as well as of a new generation of feminist activists. Through an interdisciplinary approach—feminist, cultural, and literary—my manuscript demonstrates how these young feminists and writers approached, in similar manners, the identity and sexuality-related debates that occurred during this decade. I still feel like a beginner when it comes to publications though: I am always immensely happy when an article of mine appears in print.

What has been your most memorable international experience?

Every place I have had the pleasure to visit or every country I was fortunate to live in, all had something unique to offer. If I had to choose one memorable international experience, I would then pick my last trip to Pompeii in Italy. I could offer plenty of logical explanations as to why this experience was memorable: the beauty of the frescos and villas, the city’s tragic history, its significance for Western history, etc. In the end though, I do not have a rational explanation to offer. Pompeii just speaks to me…

What is the last foreign country you visited? Is there a place in that country that you recommend anyone to visit?

In 2015, I was fortunate to travel to four foreign countries. I first went back to France to visit my family and, since my home region is close to Switzerland, I went to Bern to interview author Isabelle Flükiger whom I work on. Then, I traveled to Singapore with my husband, it was our first trip to Asia and a fantastic experience. Finally, in September, I went to Montréal, Canada, for the major conference on francophone feminisms. Unfortunately, when one travels for work, one does not necessarily have the time to visit the place.

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Here are my three recommendations:

  • In my native region of Alsace, the Cathedral in Strasbourg is most definitely a must-see, also because, in 2015, its foundations are celebrating their 1000th birthday.
  • In Bern, Isabelle Flükiger treated me and my husband to a personal and historical guided walk through the city. Even if not that “tailor-made,” I would recommend a guided tour of the city to anyone.
  • In Singapore, the Gardens by the Bay are breathtaking both for the beauty of the plants and flowers, as well as for their sci-fi-like towers.
  • In Montréal, I was fortunate to stay next to the historical neighborhood “Le Vieux Montréal,” so I was able to have a quick glance at the gorgeous Basilique Notre-Dame.

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What has been the most interesting or unusual course you taught at ISU?

All courses I have taught at ISU so far, and regardless of their level, have been memorable experiences thanks to the fantastic students we have. In Fall 2015, I have, however, had the pleasure to combine my passions for literature, feminism, and art in all my courses. I am the co-curator for the ISU Museums exhibit “(Re)discovering S(h)elves” which consists of a selection of items from women artist from the ISU permanent collection. Class activities include a guided tour of the exhibit, papers and class discussions.


Do you wish to know more about Dr. Schaal’s work? On Friday, November 6, she will give a presentation for the University Honors Salons at the Jischke building. Her talk is entitled “What the other F-word really means and why feminisms are still relevant for the 21st century”