Historian Jordan Kellman presents “Memory and Identity: The Marquis de Lafayette in Local and National History.”

2007 marked the 250th birthday of the Marquis de Lafayette, the namesake of Lafayette, Louisiana. Yet behind the celebration of the extended birthday party of a national hero lies a complex web of tensions and struggles for local and national identity: what is a true hero, for whom, and who is to decide? Lafayette’s image in France as a military hero was long tempered by blame for many of the failures of the French Revolution, and condemnation as a vain self-promoter and seeker of public glory at the expense of the public good. In the United States, he was arguably the most celebrated hero of the Revolutionary War during the nineteenth century, but has since fallen into near total obscurity.

While in France there has been a recent reconsideration of his motives, character and accomplishments in the French Revolution, recent American historians have begun to appreciate his role in the formation of a trans-Atlantic idea of liberal democracy. Nowhere are the sometimes competing, sometimes complementary values that modern French and American societies find, and wish to find, in their forefathers more visible than at the symbolic center of historic French-American culture and Franco-American relations, South Louisiana.

Jordan Kellman is Associate Professor of History at the University of Louisiana. He received his Ph.D. in the history of science and French history from Princeton University, and his research focuses on French colonialism, scientific travel and maritime exploration in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He has published articles on the French Pacific explorers Lapérouse and Le Gentil, and is currently working on a book entitled, Voyages into Nature: French Science and Travel in the Early Modern World. He recently organized the lecture series, Lafayette in History, to celebrate the 250th Birthday of the Marquis de Lafayette.

Conversations in the Humanities is presented by the UL College of Liberal Arts Humanities Resource Center, and hosted by Roger Laurent at Gallery 912 in the Oil Center. This program provides the community an opportunity for casual interaction with faculty of the College of Liberal Arts as they discuss their current research, upcoming publications or conference presentations and passions from varied disciplines. Doors open at 6:30, Wednesday, February 27, 2008. Admission is free, but call 235-2915 to reserve your seat. Light refreshments are served.

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