a "bon voyage" for Madame Joyce O. Lowrie.
39-year career at Wesleyan, the professor of romance languages and
literatures has announced her retirement at the end of this semester. But
she's not saying "au revoir" just yet.
say my retirement is more of an ‘a bientôt
‘ I'll be seeing you soon,’” she says from her third floor office on High
Street, a room that once housed President Doug Bennet in the converted
all-male fraternity house Alpha Chi Rho. "I'll be taking trips to Paris, but
I still plan to be around."
Lowrie, who came to Wesleyan in 1966 as an assistant professor, says she
will continue her research on French literature after her retirement. She'll
also finish the book she has been writing, which is already 300 pages long.
spent my life doing research and I hope not to have to stop, at least for a
while yet," she says. "This is my passion.”
taught courses both at Wesleyan and in Paris, including a senior seminar,
"Introduction to French Literature, Middle Ages to the 18th-century,"
"Narrative Strategies in 19th-20th-century French Literature," "A Question
of Time," and her signature class, "The Mirror in the Text,”
which featured sections from her forthcoming book, "Sightings: Mirrors in
Texts -- Texts in Mirrors." The book emphasizes her research, which is on
the function, significance and meaning of chiastic and interlocking
structures in French prose fiction.
always loved teaching courses that cover literature from many centuries,"
she says. "I could do that in these classes. I simply love helping students
learn how to appreciate such beautiful and challenging usages of the French
language, and to understand the ideas they portray."
Stiles '87 of Sussex, England took senior seminar with Lowrie and the two
have been e-mail correspondents ever since. Stiles still remembers Lowrie
engaging her in class discussions.
treated us as colleagues,” Stiles says. “She listened and was truly
interested in what each of us had to say about what we had read. She had a
wonderful sense of humor which enlivened the dialogue. And she was
fully engaged in what she taught - she loved it and it showed.”
her courses were taught in French, Lowrie says the classes touched a broad
spectrum of students in different majors.
’05, who will double major in the College of Letters and French Studies,
took two classes with Madame Lowrie during his Wesleyan career.
that in the future, when I think back to my academic experience at Wesleyan,
I will recall sitting in the seminar room in 300 High Street, drinking tea
with a dozen other students, and listening to Madame Lowrie talk about
Proust,” Zito says. “I know that I am only one of many people who will miss
her very much.
Brazil, Lowrie was raised bilingual in Portuguese and English as a child,
but learned Latin and French in school, "with a strong Brazilian accent."
Her accent was corrected when she attended college at Baylor University in
Texas, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1957. That same year, she
received a Fulbright scholarship to study French literature at the
University of Bordeaux.
experience changed my life," she says. “Although I was interested in many
other subjects, it was French language and literature that I loved most. I
also fell in love with the country, its culture, its mores, its cuisine, its
returned to the United States in 1958 to earn her Ph.D. in French at Yale
University. There she met her husband-to-be, Ernest. They have one daughter,
Michèle, who now teaches classics at New York University.
the first woman professor "to rise through the ranks" and obtain tenure at
Wesleyan. In 1972, Lowrie became associate professor, and in 1977 she became
a full professor.
French in smoke-filled classrooms at the then all-male university. Even
President Colin Campbell's office had "snazzy" ceramic ashtrays, she
quite a different institution then," she says.
has changed, Lowrie’s vibrant and witty personality has remained the
an irreverent, fun-loving bon vivant, an Epicurean with a taste and
talent for making superb food and scandalous jokes,” says colleague Andrew
Curran, associate professor of romance languages and literatures.
Nerenberg, associate professor of romance languages and literatures and
associate professor of women’s studies, considers Lowrie’s sense of humor
sly and puckish.
even call it wicked,” Nerenberg says. “Yet despite this, or perhaps because
of it, Joyce has a keen sense of decorum. She balances deliciously between
the two poles.”
the author of 19 articles, five translations, 12 reviews and one book under
her own name, “The Violent Mystique” published by Droz Press, Geneva. She
has contributed substantive chapters to three books and her book in
progress. She earned a fellowship to work on her present book at the Camargo
Foundation in Cassis, France, in 1995.
sat on more than 20 university committees. She also served as a freshman,
sophomore, and a French major advisor. She was a liaison with Foreign
Language Teaching Assistants, chair of her own department of Romance
Languages and Literatures, and she served as the Resident as well as campus
director of the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris.
my students decided to spend some time in France through this program," she
says. "There is nothing like a year abroad to help students to learn to
speak colloquial French, and to understand French literature and culture. "
obtained many academic honors over the years. She was awarded an University
Fellowship at Yale University between 1959-1962; a Wesleyan fellowship at
the Center for the Humanities in 1973; she received a National Endowment for
the Humanities Grant in 1989-90. She has been a member of several
professional organizations including the American Association of Teachers of
French, the Modern Language Association, and the Northeast Modern Language
Association of America. She has presented papers in all of these venues.
retiring, Lowrie is planning on "doing exactly what I most love doing, and
that is reading, doing research, writing, and traveling to France," she
says. She will continue to reside in the Middletown area. She doesn't want
to wander far from her colleagues, friends and Wesleyan students.
students: I love them! That says it all,” she says. "They are so bright and
so full of ideas. They are the reason I have wanted to stay at Wesleyan all
of these years. Being around students keeps one young."