The secret lives of LU profs

Kayla Wilson

Professor of French Judith Sarnecki got her start in the language late, taking her first French class in college to meet a language requirement. She soon fell in love with the language, and after two years she did a summer program in France, immersing herself in the culture. She chose to pursue French after this experience. She said, “Once you begin to enter a different culture, it’s almost like having a second life or identity in that culture.” After college, Sarnecki taught in high school for a few years before beginning work on her PhD. Her studies were interrupted by family, and she was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years before going back to school. During this interim time, Lawrence needed someone part-time to fill an opening in the French department. This temporary position, along with support from her family, gave her the confidence to continue the work toward her PhD. She came back full-time in 1990.

In 1996, Sarnecki founded the Francophone Seminar in Senegal. “It was an incredible experience for me,” she said. “Speaking French yet learning about a whole different West African culture.”

She has also taught in the Gender Studies department, drawing on her women and gender studies minor she completed while working on her PhD. At the moment she is teaching Introduction to Feminist Theory and Practice.

Currently, Sarnecki is at work on several different projects. She has researched the 220 films made during the Nazi occupation of France. “I knew the literature, now I studied the films and history of the period,” she said. She presents papers at conferences about these films and had an article published in the past year introducing the films of the period. In addition, she is working with Professor of French Eilene Hoft-March to put together a book about love and death in women’s lives in French and Francophone literature. So far she has written a chapter for the book and is preparing to give a smaller version at a conference in May in Austin.

When she is not teaching or doing research about French culture, Sarnecki enjoys walking outside with her two dogs, doing yoga and knitting. “I just became addicted to Sudoku,” she said. “Chocolate is my old addiction. I haven’t given up chocolate though.” She is also a self proclaimed “mystery buff,” and especially enjoys “mysteries written by women with women detectives.” Some of her favorite writers include Martha Grimes, Marcia Muller, Tony Hillerman, and Ellis Peters. Other than mysteries, Sarnecki believes that everyone should read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Another recommendation is “Le Joueuse de Go,” which she discovered while on sabbatical last spring. There is an English translation, for those whose French skills are lacking.

No one would argue that Sarnecki has seen an inordinate number of movies, in many languages and probably has some expertise in the area. Her favorite French film is “Les Enfants du Paradis.” As for American films, she said “I love old classics, I love ‘Casablanca,’ and I love comedy.” She names “A Fish Called Wanda” as a personal favorite.