Walking into her first class this semester will be nothing new for Stephanie Ravillon. The French studies lecturer will be starting her second stint teaching at Brown after a few years away. Ravillon initially landed at Brown in 2003 as a teaching associate and was subsequently hired as a visiting lecturer, both in French studies. She left for a year to teach French at MIT, has now returned and is “delighted to be back.”
Interestingly, the Dijon-born scholar didn’t start out teaching her native language. She studied English from her undergraduate years through her Ph.D., all accomplished at the University of Burgundy in Dijon. Both of her theses focused on the hybridity of the works of Indian-British novelist Salman Rushdie. She explains in her dissertation summary:
The term “hybridity,” which implicitly refers to the coming together of contradictory elements, is essentially subversive and carries within itself the seeds of an art, which is usually, and rightly, said to be an art of excess. It designates the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations (of human beings, cultures, languages, ideas, politics, etc.), and is used by Rushdie as a byword for regeneration, novelty, and richness.
Once graduated, it didn’t take her long to find her way back to French, starting her professional career teaching the language at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. She says the decision to teach was an easy one.
“As far as I can remember, I have always been drawn to foreign languages, and I have always wanted to teach. To me, learning a foreign language is not merely about learning grammar rules and vocabulary. As I see it, language learning is a way of enriching oneself and of opening up to other cultures; it is also a way of reaching beyond one’s own points of reference in order to better communicate with others.”
Still, her true interest lies in the art of translation. She’s currently working on a textbook she hopes will serve as a practical guide to translation techniques. While at Brown, she’ll also be taking that interest into the classroom, applying what she’s writing in her book to a class on translation.
“I think that students see translation as a way of improving their command of the language they are studying. For instructors, translation is a great way to help students reach advanced levels in foreign language study. It’s also a great way to help students refine their writing and editing skills, to expand their cultural knowledge, and to encourage them to reflect on their role as linguistic and cultural go-between.”
Ravillon will also be teaching French 100 in the fall.
She’s eager to get back into a Brown classroom, hoping to form strong relationships with her students, both the undergraduates that she’ll be teaching and the graduate student teaching assistants that she’ll be overseeing in the Department of French Studies. She has fond memories of her previous Brown experiences and feels strongly that Brown’s vision of education helped shape her own as she embarked on her early days of teaching. She’s also eager to rejoin her former colleagues in a department that she says has an “environment of innovation and collaboration.”
When not working, Ravillon enjoys traveling, and cites India and New Zealand as two of the more exotic places she’s been.
In the future, she hopes to add to her bank of languages, which also includes German. “I would love to learn Hindi and Japanese; I always want to learn more.”