Join us for a conversation with Professor Maya Boutaghou (University of Virginia) as she discusses her book, Ernest Renan, Qu'est-ce qu'une nation? Texte et présentation. (Honoré Champion, Paris, 2020), a critical edition examining the genesis and afterlives of Renan’s famous 1882 lecture at the Sorbonne.

Like other texts that everyone has heard of but few have really read, “What is a Nation” has had a strange fate. And yet, it was in this lecture that Renan left behind his intellectual testament. Translated into English in 1896, this seminal text has served as the basis for discussions and theories around the question of the nation in France and the Anglo-American world, traveling beyond the French critical tradition to become part of a global literary, critical, and philosophical heritage. Renan, an Orientalist philosopher, proposes a visionary definition that requires regular re-examination of what constitutes the nation, conceived as the manifestation of a collective consciousness that cannot be imposed, but that realizes a “clearly expressed desire to continue communal life.”

Maya Boutaghou is Associate Professor of French and Global Cultures and Andrew Mellon Faculty (Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures) at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Ernest Renan, Qu'est-ce qu'une nation? Texte et présentation. Suivis de Genèse et postérité  (Honoré Champion, Paris, 2020) and Occidentalismes, romans historiques postcoloniaux et identités nationales au XIXe siècle (Honoré Champion, 2016). She has edited special issues and published articles in numerous journals on topics ranging from Francophone postcolonial theory, the Algerian Revolution, the question of “minor” literatures, and issues related to multilingualism, multiculturalism, and creolization in Francophone cultural contexts.

This conversation will be in English.

Register via Zoom to attend or contact Professor Guilan Siassi ( for further information.

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