Atmosphere, Not Curriculum, Gives Value to Normale, Seznec Asserts
The intellectual atmosphere of the Ecole Normale Superiere "seeps in like the scent in a deserted flower shop," Jean J. Seznec, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at Oxford University, told a Lamont Forum Room audience in the final Thursday Afternoon Lecture.
This "contact of minds" rather than a "set curriculum" make the Ecole the "most renowned teachers' college in France," Seznec said.
The Ecole, Seznec continued, stresses learning in various intellectual fields rather than teaching methods, thus differing from American teachers' colleges.
The government supported institution, which was founded during the French Revolution, requires both written and oral exams in Latin, Greek, French literature, and philosophy, he said.
"Though primarily a teachers' college, graduates do desert from the teaching profession," he said. The Ecole thus claims renowned representatives in diverse fields, Seznec added, naming Jean Paul Sartre, Jean Prevost, Jules Romains, and Jean Giraudoux.
"Alumni played an important part in politics during the Third Republic," Seznec said, and the diplomatic service now takes many graduates.
The place of women at the Ecole "brings up a very complicated matter" Seznec admitted when questioned, then added "but they are definitely in the minority."