French and Francophone Studies | The 2023 Sonia Marks Memorial Lecture – School of Languages and Cultures French and Francophone Studies | The 2023 Sonia Marks Memorial Lecture – School of Languages and Cultures

French and Francophone Studies | The 2023 Sonia Marks Memorial Lecture

An event presented by French and Francophone Studies

The 2023 Sonia Marks Memorial Lecture
Respiration and oppression: breathing in Aimé Césaire, Ananda Devi and Luce Irigaray

Professor Françoise Lionnet (Harvard University, USA) – delivered by Professor Emeritus Margaret Sankey

Update – 28 Nov 2023: Regrettably, Professor Lionnet will be unable to attend the event in Sydney due to unforeseen circumstances. In her absence, Professor Emeritus Margaret Sankey will deliver Professor Lionnet’s paper on her behalf.

Using works by Martinican poet Aimé Césaire (Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, « Le Cri ») and Mauritian novelist and poet Ananda Devi (Joséphin le fou, Le long désir), Professor Lionnet’s presentation will weave together multiple insularities and link them to the international Black Lives Matter movement. She will reflect on the process of breathing as a key element in our human ability to resist oppression, understand relationality, and emerge into the community of sentient beings. The Covid pandemic has highlighted our profound interdependence on a planetary scale, and Professor Lionnet argues that Irigaray’s philosophical approach in L’oubli de l’air (The Forgetting of Air) can help us amplify discussions of identity and power in literature. Her goal is to illuminate the relationship between colonial and postcolonial crises of respiration, the allegories of asphyxiation present in Devi and Césaire, as well as our growing ecological and sociopolitical problems.

This year, the Sonia Marks Memorial Lecture will be held just before the start of the annual ASFS (Australian Society of French Studies) Conference, which is hosted by the University of Sydney.

A past-President of the American Comparative Literature Association, Professor Françoise Lionnet is currently Research Professor both at Harvard and the University of California, Los Angeles. At UCLA, she served as Chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies, then as Director of the James Coleman African Studies Center. She also co-directed the Mellon Postdoctoral Program “Cultures in Transnational Perspective” and the “Global Studies” Postdoctoral Program. At Harvard, she served as Acting Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality and Professor in Residence in Romance Languages and Literatures, Comparative Literature, and African and African American Studies. Her numerous publications include a two-volume study published in Mauritius, her native island, in 2012: Écritures féminines et dialogues critiques. Subjectivité, genre et ironie and Le su et l’incertain. Cosmopolitiques créoles de l’océan Indien. The ground-breaking Autobiographical Voices: Race, Gender, Self-Portraiture (Cornell UP 1989) and Postcolonial Representations: Women, Literature, Identity (Cornell UP 1995), were followed by two collaborative volumes co-edited with Shu-mei Shih: Minor Transnationalism (Duke UP 2005), The Creolization of Theory (Duke UP 2011), and a project on the 18th c. Creole poet from Reunion Island, Évariste Parny: Selected Poetry and Prose (MLA 2018). She has edited or co-edited numerous collections of essays for journals such as Comparative Literature, Yale French Studies, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, L’Esprit créateur, Modern Language Notes, the International Journal of Francophone Studies, and Words Without Borders. Her research focuses primarily on Indian Ocean literary, cultural, and historical studies, in relation to Atlantic and Caribbean Studies. She is interested in the longue durée of colonialism in those regions and focuses on 18th to 21st century writers. In 2021, she was awarded the medal of l’Ordre des Francophones d’Amérique by the Conseil supérieur de la langue française of the Province of Quebec, Canada, for her contributions to the fields of French and Francophone studies.


The lecture is an in-person event. It is free with required registrations. Register now.

About the Sonia Marks Memorial Lecture

The Sonia Marks Memorial fund was set up in 1985 to commemorate the life and achievements of Sonia Marks, whose untimely death deprived the University of a much appreciated teacher and colleague. The fund provides for annual student prizes for students from the beginner language stream and a memorial lecture on French Studies.

For more information, contact: Dr Victoria Souliman (


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The event is finished.


Dec 06 2023


4:30 PM - 6:00 PM

More Info

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SSB Lecture Theatre 200
Social Sciences Building A02, University of Sydney


French and Francophone Studies

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