By Mylène Della-Monica (2015)
On Friday 6 March 2015, at 8.45am, Professor Anne Dunan-Page, who has been organizing the LERMAsteriales for the last four years, opened the conference. After two long months of intense preparation, the LERMAsteriales were about to begin. Twenty-seven anxious students filled the room, facing a large audience of professors, former students, relatives and friends to give their first papers.
The LERMAsteriales are an exceptional opportunity for Master’s students to dive into the real world of research. We were given the chance to discuss our own research and to get a sense of what organizing a conference means. It gave us an insight into what a researcher’s life is made of: the thrill of the organization, the adrenaline rushing when you are up on stage, but most of all the excitement filling you up when you are about to start delivering your presentation.
Ten minutes – that is all each of us had – to convince, persuade, and share our passion for our subject. The LERMAsteriales is a great opportunity for young Master’s researchers to share their enthusiasm and interest for a topic of their choice. It was also a chance to discover what we were capable of, to share our research but above all, to communicate a message in an academic context.
In the end, even the most worried of us took great advantage of those few minutes. It also broadened our knowledge of the subjects of other students. As Prof. Dunan-Page had predicted at our very first meeting, we came out of this experience as a strong and united group.
The theme of the 2015 LERMAsteriales was ‘Commitment’ and throughout the day, we explore different aspects of that wide and complex notion. We had to adapt and be disciplined enough to illustrate the conference theme instead of digressing about our more specialized topics. Literature, history, enunciation, linguistics, translation, photography, art, religion, politics, and language – almost all the disciplines represented in the research centre – came up in the course of the day. We found that ‘commitment’, even if the word itself did not always exist, had many different realities, in different historical periods, and in different cultural contexts, whether they be social, political, linguistic, literary or artistic. Even if commitment may first appear to be synonymous with choice and subjectivity, it is not always an individual choice and can be a collective experience. It can be a response to social or political changes – people commit themselves for or against a cause – or it can take the shape of a moral or legal contract. Commitment can also be the result of identity claims from a given group. Commitment is not always related to forms of deviance or dissent but can express conformity as well. Non-commitment appears to be a form of commitment in itself. A non-committed artist, or a non-committed act of speech, can actually be committed. The distinction between commitment and non-commitment is not as clear-cut as we might have thought.
But most of all, as Edouard Brasey, one of the speakers, pointed out at the end of the day, commitment is a notion that evolves with time: ‘the commitment of yesterday will not be the commitment of tomorrow’. Research, too is dynamic, perpetually evolving and, I think, that is partly why we keep researching social sciences and the humanities – because every era, every generation can bring its own interpretation to a subject, can bring a new vision to it, according to its own context and time, and commits itself to push the boundaries of knowledge even further. Past research on an author, on a group, on a grammatical point, on history, or past translations, are bound to be improved and updated, thanks to discussions and scholarly exchanges. This was the ultimate point of the day – to bring young student researchers and professors together in order to promote our research and test our hypotheses, but also to improve our work thanks to the help and advice we received from the scholarly community.
At the end of this rich and long day, the general satisfaction was striking. The audience, especially the professors, underlined the quality of the papers and expressed their satisfaction with the training that the ‘Master ACMA’ has offered us so far. Among the students, there was a general consensus that the day had been a great opportunity to give us a taste of real research. I think that, far from the image of the scholars in their ivory tower, alone with their books and computers (no more manuscripts and feathers – times have changed), research is most of all about sharing.