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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 Decades, 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 Etudes President; Gustave Cohen, Dean of Humanities at the Ecole Libre des Hautes Etudes; Helen Elizabeth Patch, chair of the French Language and Literature Department at Mount Holyoke College; Jean Andre 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 Etudes 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 do Pontigny resumed in that country.
The Entretiens de Pontigny records consist of correspondence, meeting minutes, articles, press releases, schedules, programs, a guest register, and photographs. Most of the records are written in French, while some of the articles and a few letters are written in English. Documents in this collection record the planning and implementation of the Entretiens de Pontigny in the United States in 1942, 1943, and 1944 and describe events that took place at each conference. The correspondence documents logistics and planning of the conference. Some of the correspondence is between Helen Elizabeth Patch and exiled Sorbonne professor, Gustave Cohen. Other correspondents include Jean Andre Wahl, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Beatrice Fry Hyslop, Jacques Maritain, Cecile Jahiel, Auguste Viatte, Andre Spire, Marcelle de Manziarly, Boris Mirkine-Guetzevitch, and Mrs. Raymond de Saussure. There are minutes from the Entretiens de Pontigny committee meeting of January 23, 1944 attended by Patch, Wahl, Mirkine-Guetzevitch, Manziarly, and others. Press releases from 1944 describe a talk about American art by Robert Motherwell and Roger Sessions' discussion of American music. Also included are several articles, such as one from "Pour la Victorie" that describes the Ecole Libre in New York City, and another by Cohen that relates the historical basis for Pontigny. The collection also includes a short speech in French by Wahl concerning "the notion of crisis," and a longer speech in French by Charles Heuertz, Director of Social Security in Luxembourg regarding his home country. A "Registre" contains signatures of conference participants (the order of these may indicate relationships among the individuals). Formal and informal photographs from the conferences are of Patch, Wahl, Cohen, Mirkine Guetzevitch, Manzairly, Heuertz, and Sessions, as well as Jacques Hadamard, Rachel Bespaloff, Marc Chagall, Andre Masson, George Boas, Lionello Venturi, and E.G. Kogbetliantz.
Material from this collection is available in an online digital format.
Chronological and by form of material.
Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:
Enretiens de Pontigny Records, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.
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: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/lits/library/arch/forms/areq.htm