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Artists, Intellectuals, and World War II: The Pontigny Encounters at Mount Holyoke College

 Helen Patch

Elissa Gelfand, Dorothy Rooke McCullock Professor of French at Mount Holyoke College, opened the Pontigny Symposium held at the College from November 6-8, 2003.

Gelfand explained that the symposium honored a brief moment in Mount Holyoke’s history, a time when intellectuals and artists around the world gathered in

South Hadley, Massachusetts. During the summers of 1942-1944, this remarkable group of participants met to discuss the roles of art in public life. Helen Patch, professor of French at Mount Holyoke, organized the series of three intellectual “encounters” (“Pontigny-en-Amerique”) and modeled them on the original Pontigny meetings in the Burgundy region of France organized by Paul Desjardins during the years of 1916-1939.

The original meetings in France ended with the beginning of political unrest preceding WWII. Professor Patch, along with Sorbonne Professor Gustave Cohen and French philosopher and Mount Holyoke Professor Jean Wahl, believed Mount Holyoke could provide a peaceful setting to the refugee intellectuals who had hoped to replicate the orignial Pontigny meetings

German philosopher Hannah Arendt, artists Marc Chagall and Robert Motherwell, and United States' poet Wallace Stevens were among those intellectuals who participted in Mount Holyoke College's “Pontigny-en-Amerique”.

Keynote Address by Stanley Cavell with an Introduction by Professor Christopher Benfey

Roundtable Discussion:"The Legacy of Rachel Bespaloff, Writer and Teacher"

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