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Language professor receives French award

December 14th, 2005

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Wendy Pfeffer receives the Chevalier insignia of the Ordre des Arts et des Letters from Richard Barbeyron, French consul general.

The French government has named University of Louisville faculty member Wendy Pfeffer a Chevalier in the distinguished Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters). Pfeffer, professor of French and chair of the department of Classical and Modern Languages, was recognized for her contributions furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.

As a Chevalier, Pfeffer is entitled to wear the insignia of the order, a medal suspended from a colored ribbon of green with white stripes. Richard Barbeyron, French consul general in Chicago, and John Lina, honorary French consul in Kentucky, presented Pfeffer with the medal and a certificate from the French Minister of Culture and Communication in a ceremony Dec. 13 at the Rauch Planetarium.

A scholar of medieval French literature, Pfeffer was recognized by the French government for her efforts as founding editor of the scholarly journal TENSO and for her work as a scholar of French literature.

Pfeffer founded and has served as TENSO’s editor in chief for 20 years. The journal, which is noted for first-rate scholarship, publishes articles on the literature and language of the southern French region of Occitania (which includes Provence). The region often is omitted from traditional French scholarship. Pfeffer said she founded the journal at the urging of senior scholars because of the need to bring together the scholars of Occitan literature, and that she continues “to find editing the journal a real pleasure because the newest scholarship in the field from across the world hits my desk first.”

Author of two books and numerous articles, Pfeffer also has co-edited two collections of medieval texts and commentary.

“I decided to pursue a career as a scholar while an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz,” she said. “Late one night, working on a paper, I realized this was what I wanted to do.”

The recognition from the French government “is a very serious honor, and one that does not usually go to university faculty,” Pfeffer said. “It usually goes to those in the world of arts.”

Past American inductees into the order include jazz musician Ornette Coleman, author Robert Paxton, singer Marilyn Horne and actors Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

“I am honored to be placed in such company,” she said.

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