Wesleyan professor looks at French book’s presentation of blacks – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Wesleyan professor looks at French book’s presentation of blacks

Andrew Curran, associate professor of French at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., will talk about black Africans and slavery — and how they were viewed in a significant 18th-century reference work — beginning at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2 in the Sanford Room.

“Encyclopedie” was published in France between 1751 and 1772, later revised, supplemented and translated into numerous foreign editions. Its self-professed aim was “to change the way people think.”

Pro-colony rhetoric, scientific inquiry and early rumblings of anti-slavery sentiment are combined in the volume’s presentation of black Africans individually and collectively, and are an accurate reflection of the era’s hesitation regarding this particular variety of the human species.

Curran, who teaches in the Department of Romance Languages and Literature at Wesleyan, holds a Ph.D. in French Literature from New York University. He is currently at work on “The Philosophes on Black Africa: Disjunctions in Enlightenment Thought, 1750-1800;” and was a guest editor for “Faces of Monstrosity in Eighteenth-Century Thought, an edition of the journal “Eighteenth-Century Life,” published in May 1997 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

He has contributed book chapters and articles to publications in North America and Europe and received a Center for the Humanities Fellowship, a Mellon Foundation Summer Research Grant and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

His visit is sponsored by the French and Francophone Studies Department and generously co-sponsored by the Africana Studies program, the Comparative Literature program, the Human Rights and Genocide Forum, the Peer Education in Human Relations Program, the Philosophy Department, the Public Policy Studies program, the Religious Studies Department and the Spanish and Hispanic Studies Department.