Opening up to humanities: the Writing and Rhetoric Center

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.

We believe it’s essential to learn about all forms of expression in order to perceive, think about, and describe the world. There is a clear place for literature and creative writing in our educational approach, especially at a time when demands for speed and responsiveness leave little room for the measured reflection involved in reading and writing literature.

Frédéric Mion, President of Sciences Po

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:

Chair Director

Delphine Grouès, Dean of the Institute for Skills & Innovation

Chair activities

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”.

Literary Award

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.

Young writers

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.

Forging partnerships

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.

Funding requirement : €250,000 per year

To achieve this funding goal, we are seeking support from several partners willing to commit for a three-year period.

Become a partner

Strengthen your image and your employer brand:

  • Be associated with a project that promotes creativity and critical thinking
  • Benefit from sponsor status, which offers brand exposure on our physical and digital communication materials
  • Share your experience and support students in their studies and career launch
  • Receive invitations to events organised by the Centre and the Chair and co-produce events contributing to the development of the Center’s activities
  • Gain opportunities to meet the writer-in-residence or the Chair guests

Examples of what partners’ contributions could finance:

  • Remuneration of the writer in residence
  • Support for organising masterclasses and writing workshops
  • Creation of courses at the Writing and Rhetoric Centre and online modules to strengthen students’ writing skills
  • Visits by the writer in resident to Sciences Po’s partner universities and secondary schools (e.g., high schools participating the Equal Opportunity programme)
  • Intensive creative writing courses outside Paris, for example, a few days at Princeton or at the Avignon festival. Sciences Po students would take part in these courses and partners could join them to develop dialogue and collaboration
  • Events at Sciences Po to promote and share creative writing: an event at the Paris Book Fair, an event during the Semaine de la Francophonie, and the writer-in-residence master class


Our other chairs

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In addition to our undergraduate programmes and our seven graduate schools, Sciences Po offers a diverse range of short courses and programmes.

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Our programmes must make students aware of the challenges of a world undergoing profound change and equip them with new skills suited to the jobs of the future: creativity, collaboration, and the ability to put ideas into practice.