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Two professors to receive distinguished French award

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
(217) 333-2177;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Two professors in the French department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are to receive one of France’s oldest awards.

Douglas Kibbee and Lawrence Schehr will accept The Order of the Academic Palms (L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques), with the rank of Chevalier (Knight), for "dedication and accomplishment in the areas of teaching, scholarship and research."

The honor "consecrates" the professors’ "contribution to the spread of French culture," wrote Jack Lang, the former French minister of national education, who notified the professors of their honor.

Veronique Renault, the deputy cultural attaché in Chicago, will confer the Academic Palms on the UI professors in medal ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 10) in the Lucy Ellis Lounge of the Foreign Languages Building, 707 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

Napoleon Bonaparte, in a decree of March 17, 1808, founded the Order of the Academic Palms. The greatest change in its history came in 1955, when the University Palms was officially raised to the status of a ministerial order, and three
ranks – Commandeur, Officier and Chevalier – were created.

The French minister of national education makes recommendations for the honor to the French prime minister, who then issues an official decree if she or he is in agreement. The Academic Palms can be accorded to foreigners and to French citizens living outside of France who "contribute actively to the expansion of the French culture in the world."

Recipients are informally called "Friends of France."

In his research, Kibbee has focused on the history of the French language, particularly the social and political history, and the history of linguistic theories.

More recently, Kibbee has added an interest in "how humanistic research informs and is informed by public policy. This has led to a detailed study of the history of language legislation in France, from the period when Latin was competing with Gaulish through the latest battles against anglicisms."

His books include "Language Legislation and Linguistic Rights," "New Analysis of Romance Languages: Proceedings of the 18th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Language," and "For to Speke French Trewely: The French Language in England, 1000-1600."

He is preparing books on the history of language legislation in France, and on language rights issues in the United States. In addition, his translation of Baoulé folktales from Ivory Coast is forthcoming.

Kibbee served as the head of the French department from 1994 to 2000. He joined the Illinois faculty in 1985.

Schehr’s fields of interest are 19th and 20th century literature, gay and gender studies, critical and narrative theory and the French language and culture.

He has published several books, including "Parts of an Andrology: On Representations of Men’s Bodies," "Rendering French Realism," "Alcibiades at the
Door: Gay Discourses in French Literature," "The Shock of Men: Homosexual Hermeneutics and French Writing" and "Flaubert and Sons: Readings of Flaubert, Zola, and Proust."

His book manuscript, titled "High Gay Culture," is in preparation, and another book, "Figures of Alterity: French Narrative and Its Others," is forthcoming.

Schehr also is a co-editor of several volumes, including "Articulations of Difference: Gender Studies and Writing in French," as well as an anthology, "Writing French Food." He is editor-in-chief of Contemporary French Civilization, a journal devoted to all aspects of civilization and cultural studies in France and the Francophone world.

Schehr joined the French department at Illinois in 2000. Prior to that, he was head of the department of foreign languages and literatures at North Carolina State University.