Elizabeth Marcus

Scholar (Humanities), US

Elizabeth Jacqueline Marcus is a Mellon Fellow in the Scholars in the Humanities program for 2017-2019. She received her BA from the University of Oxford in Modern History and French, and completed her PhD in French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in 2017. Elizabeth’s research and teaching focus on the francophone and Arab worlds, with a particular interest in knowledge production, cultural imperialism, and the histories of religious and minority groups.  In her current project, Difference and Dissidence: Cultural Politics and the End of Empire in Lebanon, she uses post-independence Lebanon as a case study of multilingualism and decolonization from below. Elizabeth has taught in the Core Curriculum at Columbia University and at MIT as a Visiting Assistant  Professor. 

Cité universitaire de Paris

Paris and the Global University: International Students and Cultural Internationalism at the Cité Universitaire, 1945-1975

While in residence, Elizabeth Marcus worked on revisions of her book manuscript and developed writing for her second project. Her first book explores how local actors differently constructed the afterlife of empire in Lebanon, a country marked by institutional, linguistic and structural hangovers from the Ottoman and French periods. I argue that independence in 1943 prompted Lebanon’s new civic subjects to enter into a temporal drama, scripted by a number of questions: when does a new era start, how do you build anew from the fragments of former imperial powers, and how do you conceptualise change when things might not seem to change? Using French, Arabic, and English literary texts, cultural and political journals, legal codes, and archival sources, I show how local actors sought answers through the place of French and Arabic in the new state. Language became a way of negotiating relationships of continuity and rupture. For example, how do you build a national literary sphere in two languages? Should law students be taught in Arabic or continue to be taught in French, as they had done since 1913? Tracing these local debates exposes the challenges inherent in the making and unmaking of states, as they confront the difficulties of producing flashy breakthroughs. This manuscript showcases Lebanon as a rich example for understanding not only the long durée of francophonie in the former French empire, but an alternative and rarely studied genealogy.

She also worked on two sections of writing for her second manuscript, Paris and the Global University, which uncovers how a residential campus in the Parisian outskirts became a crucible of transnational political and cultural activism during the Trente Glorieuses (1945-1975). Using previously unexamined literary texts, and public and private sources in a variety of languages, Elizabeth’s work seeks to uncover the multifaceted institutional story of what we now know as the “global university.”

When not writing and researching these projects, Elizabeth developed ideas for an article on the real-life stakes of literary criticism, and how practices of literary interpretation are increasingly used to make decisions about political validity, and can sometimes be the grounds by which regimes and people might live and die. She was very excited to develop some collaborative projects with the other fellows at the residency in the near future!

Elizabeth Marcus was in residence at the Camargo Foundation in 2020, as part of the Core Program.