West Virginia University
in Vendée, France
In the classroom by the sea... (...and on the links...)
June 24, 1998
Above, Julian Brayman launches a powerful drive down the fairway of the number 16 (par 5) hole of the Golf des Olonnes just outside Les Sables. The round of golf was a well deserved repose after a full day's adventure yesterday and an intense morning of lecture and discussion in class a little earlier.
Today's class discussions centered on follow-ups of our visit yesterday to Le Puy du Fou. Among the linguistic details were were able to clarify is the origin of the name of this enchanted place. As it turns out "puy" comes from the Latin "podium", a word we have borrowed into English, and which here means an elevated piece of land (i.e. "hill"). All French speakers know the word "fou" as meaning "fool" or crazy person. In fact, however, the "Fou" here comes from the Latin "fagus", or simply beech tree. My liberal translation of "Fool on the Hill" was therefore more foolish than I thought....
Much of our more formal discussion today focused on questions of general culture. Eating habits, consumerism, cinema, and the political climate of today's France (and America) were among our main topics. The broad similarities between American and French life and the smallest of details that can sometimes be of capital cultural importance provided ample material for our reflexions.
Tomorrow we will be off for a visit to a major site in the history of the Vendée Wars that shook the region in the 1790's. The "Logis de la Chabotterie" is in fact the site where the most important of the royalist generals, Charette, was captured in 1796, thus bringing an effective end to the movement to destroy the young French Republic. The "logis" itself will also provide fodder for our mission of discovery. A kind of "plantation/fortress" the evolved during the 1500's and the Wars of Religion, the "logis" was at once a farm and a castle for it inhabitants. In it its time it was an ideal design for the production and the protection of the wealth this rich land and its inhabitants could produce.
Stay tuned to WVU-V!
Go on to June 25, 1998.