LeeAnn Broderick, a senior majoring in both French and Art History, has been working on a research project about the 1890 French play Camille. The play focuses on the interaction between a fictional Mormon family and a Frenchman with legal troubles. In her paper, LeeAnn examines how Mormonism is used as a bridge between the secular French state and America as a religious country.
This project started as a paper for a class, LDS Church in France, which was taught last semester by Professors Corry Cropper and Carter Charles. The three of them, in collaboration, hope to expand the current paper and prepare it for presentation at a conference and eventual publication in The Journal of Mormon History. We interviewed LeeAnn and Dr. Cropper to learn more about the experience and the project:
Q: What have you learned through this experience?
LeeAnn: “It is interesting how much [this play] used the Church and a franco-centric fictitious version of Mormons to comment on problems in French society at the time. The French used polygamy, for example, to examine what might happen in France if women gained more autonomy or more influence in the public sphere. French authors wrote about Mormon female characters to comment on gender roles in their own country, and some male characters were made fun of because they exhibited conventional feminine traits.”
Q: What impact do you hope to have through your research?
LeeAnn: “I think it is cool to have my name on something. Since I am in my last semester, most of my classes are research-based. I feel like most of my papers don’t go anywhere, so it is cool that my paper is going to be read by someone other than my professor.”
Q: Why do you want to continue exploring the ideas in LeeAnn’s paper?
Prof. Cropper: “LeeAnn’s paper is significant because it examines how the image of the LDS Church was subverted to appeal to a Parisian theater-going public in the late nineteenth century. The 'Mormonism' of Camille is only loosely tied to the historical church, but it becomes a narrative trope that allows Philippe Gille (the playwright) to criticize French bureaucracy and idleness.”
LeeAnn’s project is a great example of something you can do for your senior portfolio if you plan to major in French.