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Entretiens de Pontigny collection, 1942-present
1 box (0.42 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0813 (LD 7098.5 E53)

Entretiens de Pontigny; gatherings of intellectuals in France, founded in 1910 as Décades de Pontigny and held at Mount Holyoke College in 1942-1944. The collection contains historical sketches, articles, notes, and books primarily relating to the history of and participants in the conferences.

Terms of Access and Use:


Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

The Entretiens (symposiums) de Pontigny at Mount Holyoke were a series of three summer gatherings held at the College from 1942-1944. The gatherings were modeled on the Décades, ten-day discussion meetings founded in 1910 and held in Pontigny, France until the German occupation during World War II. In 1942 a committee began exploring the possibility of continuing the conference in the United States. Members of this committee were Jacques Maritain, Ecole libre des hautes études President; Gustave Cohen, Dean of Humanities at the Ecole libre des hautes études; Helen Elizabeth Patch, chair of the French Language and Literature Department at Mount Holyoke College; Jean André Wahl, professor at the Sorbonne; Mrs. Raymond de Saussure, and Pierre Guedenet, a French professor at Mount Holyoke. With the support of the Ecole libre des hautes études and Mount Holyoke College President Roswell Ham, the first conference was held at Mount Holyoke in the summer of 1942. For three consecutive summers European and American intellectuals, musicians, artists, and writers attended these conferences. Discussions concerned poetry, literature, anthropology, diplomacy, music, science, and cinema. Topics included "Literature and the Idea of Crisis," "Problems of American Music," "Liberty and Authority," "The Responsibility of Literature in the World Crisis," and "The Place of the Spiritual in a World of Property." The conferences also featured performances of classical and modern music by many notable musicians. After the liberation of France in 1944, the Entretiens de Pontigny resumed in that country as the Décades.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection consists of historical sketches, articles, notes, and books relating to the Entretiens de Pontigny conferences, particularly the sessions held at Mount Holyoke College in 1942, 1943 and 1944. Included is a comprehensive study of these meeting entitled Artists, Intellectuals, and World War II: The Pontigny Encounters at Mount Holyoke College, 1942-1944, edited by Christopher Benfey and Karen Remmler (2006). Also included are two historical sketches which summarize the events of the conferences and provide background information about participants. There are articles written about aspects of the conferences, including "Exiles in Arcadia: Gustave Cohen and the Colloques de 'Pontigny-en-Amerique' (1942-1944)" by Nadia Margolis in 1995; "The Ecole libre des hautes études (At the New School for Social Research)", 1993, and several articles relating to American poet Wallace Stevens who attended the 1943 conference. There is also a book and publicity material for an exhibit, "Exiles and Emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler" at the Los Angeles County Museum of during the winter of 1997 which included material relating to the conferences. Another book in the collection is entitled, "De Pontigny à Cerisy: un siècle de rencontres intellectuelles" (2002) by Claire Paulhan.

Material from this collection is available in an online digital format.

This collection is organized into two series:

  • Historical Sketches, Articles, and Notes
  • Books

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:


Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Entretiens de Pontigny Collection, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.

History of the Collection

Additional Information
Contact Information
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

Phone: (413) 538-2013
Fax: (413) 538-2370

Email Reference Form:
Encoding funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • Cohen, Gustave, 1879-1958.
  • Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955.
  • Décades de Pontigny.
  • Entretiens de Pontigny - (Mount Holyoke College).
  • Humanities - Congresses.
  • Intellectuals - France.
  • Intellectuals - United States.
  • Science and the humanities - Congresses.

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