This programme founded in 2019 aims to prioritise reflection on the use of language at Sciences Po and to develop students’ skill in writing and speaking, inventiveness, and appreciation of literature. Key to its success is a writers-in-residence scheme offering teaching and several events each year.
Oratory and rhetoric have formed part of Sciences Po’s identity since its founding. Marcel Proust, Julien Gracq and Leïla Slimani are just a few of the alumni who demonstrate Sciences Po’s strength at educating talented writers.
The spread of fake news, declining standards of written and spoken expression in the age of social networks, and the creativity imperative magnify the need to develop critical, original thinking and offer more courses on these themes.
Writer in Residence Chair
The Writer in Residence Programme was officially launched on 30 January 2019. It is the only initiative of its kind in France.
The writer Kamel Daoud, followed by Marie Darrieussecq and now Patrick Chamoiseau, teach courses in creative writing, take master classes on the regional campuses and participate in various literary events. A new writer in residence is welcomed each semester.
The intention is to stimulate dialogue and enrich the teaching and learning relationship by inviting students to take part in writing projects. They can develop their creativity through workshops in which they practice creative writing and discuss it with their peers. Such creative exercises empower students. The cognitive impact of writing is well known: writing encourages depth and clarity of thinking and helps put students in a more favourable position for learning in other disciplines.
Literary creation changes our ways of thinking and perceiving the world, but also our ways of doing and being. The Chair and the Centre therefore offer breathing space and inspiration for the entire Sciences Po community (learners and instructors).
The Chair and the Centre focus on three key areas:
- Argumentation: this area concentrates on the importance of mastering strategic communication in an academic or professional context. The classes help students to increase their proficiency in writing dissertations, giving presentations, and sitting oral or written exams, and to develop the skills necessary to express themselves clearly and persuasively in a professional setting.
- Public speaking: this area focuses on engaging in one’s message, building a relationship with the audience, learning to listen and persuade, and mastering the fundamental techniques of stress management in public speaking, delivery (vocal charisma and body language), and oral style. A speaker should be the author, composer, conductor and performer of his or her speech.
- Creative writing: the last area aims to create a space where students feel free to be inventive, to play with language and, if they so choose, to share their writing with their peers and with recognised writers and publishers.
Delphine Grouès, Dean of the Institute for Skills & Innovation
An increased range of courses
The academic offer concerns 300 students from various programmes and levels. Tutoring will be provided to students requiring individualised support to enrich their writing practice. The creation of online modules will enable us to offer students independent learning options in addition to the classroom-based courses.
Literary events and masterclasses with writers
Several exciting masterclasses took place with writers in 2019: Roberto Saviano presented the French version of his latest novel in preview and Ece Temelkuran did the same on the occasion of the publication of his last book in France.
A competition of novels in French for non-French speakers during the Francophonie week, welcoming Claude Hagège, professor at Collège de France to the jury.
An intervention of Sciences Po students took place at the Salon du Livre de Paris (Paris Book Fair): students reread and commented some first novelists’ manuscripts before publishers and writers.
The Center had the honor of hosting Ken Follett’s “Friendship Tour”: four stars of British literature on European tours came to meet our students. Ken Follett, Kate Mosse, Jojo Moyes and Lee Child delivered a message of friendship and union together on stage, while sharing their work and their influences.
Writers are invited to give lessons and allow the creation of new subjects for study. Jake Lamar, American journalist and writer, for example, teaches “Finding a voice: modes of storytelling in 2020”.
Encouraging students to write and showcase their creations is a leitmotif of the Writing and Rhetoric Centre. To reinforce this commitment, the Centre has mandated students to launch an annual literary award. In contrast to traditional student literary awards based on stylistic categories such as best short story, best essay or best play, this award chose as the first transversal theme “The Circle”. Two winners, on French-speaking and the other English-speaking, will be rewarded by two juries, chaired by Leïla Slimani (French speaking) and Jake Lamar (English-speaking). The event will take place in April 2020.
The 2020-2021 fall semester will welcome a young writer for the first time. Author Alexandre Gallien, who won the Prix du Quai des Orfèvres this year for his crime novel “Les cicatrices de la nuit”, will be the first guest of this programme. This former police officer will provide students with his experience through a new course. He will certainly participate in the emergence of literary careers, making the Center a nursery for writers in the making.
The creation of the Writer-in-Residence Chair, a first in France, echoes similar initiatives at universities abroad. Stanford’s programme in Writing and Rhetoric, the writing centres at Harvard and King’s College, Oxford’s Centre for Life-Writing, Cambridge’s Language Centre, and the Writing Hub at University of Sydney are some examples.
Faculty collaborations and exchanges are developing around the various teaching practices and formats that have been developed to build students’ writing skills and creativity, beginning with Princeton, one of the most advanced universities in terms of writing centres.
In addition, partnerships are currently being discussed with cultural and academic institutions such as the Avignon Festival, the National Library of France, the National School of Fine Arts and the Institut Mémoire de l’Edition Contemporaine (IMEC), around events related to literary creation.
To achieve this funding goal, we are seeking support from several partners willing to commit for a three-year period.