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Christine Hélot: Children’s Literature Sans Frontières: Tomi Ungerer: Wanderer, Weltburger, and Polyglot

March 3, 2016 @ 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Tomi Ungerer, world famous author and illustrator of children’s books, was born in Alsace in 1931. He came to New York when he was 25 and in ten years published over 80 books for children. In 1971, he left NY for Nova Scotia then later moved to Ireland where he lives today. In the eighties, as a fervent European, he became very engaged in several initiatives supporting the reconciliation of France and Germany and the creation of bilingual schools in Alsace.

Our presentation will focus on Ungerer’s multilingualism, creativity and sense of humour. Ungerer writes in four languages (French, German, Alsatian, English) and refuses to be assigned to one mother tongue. As a citizen of the world, Ungerer rejects borders, whether linguistic, cultural or literary, and thus writes for children and adults. His books are translated in over 30 languages but he also self–translated his childhood memoir in German and English We will propose an analysis of two specific books: the childhood memoir of his life during WW2 entitled in French “À la guerre comme à la guerre”, and its translation into German and English, and “Flix”, a story for children about hybridity, bilingualism, diversity and difference which has also been translated into German and English, although not by the author himself.

Through a comparative analysis of the self-translations of “À la guerre comme à la guerre” we will show how Ungerer’s knowledge of different cultures enables him to transcend national borders, and through the translations of Flix by different translators we will illustrate the role of ideology in the American version as opposed to the French and German versions which are focused on European identity.

Christine Hélot has been a professor of English and Sociolinguistics at the Graduate School of Education of the University of Strasbourg (France) since 1991. Previously, she held a post of lecturer in Applied Linguistics at the National University of Ireland (Maynooth College) where she was the director of the Language Centre. As a sociolinguist, her research focuses on language in education policies in France and in Europe, bi-multilingual education, intercultural education, language awareness, early childhood education, and children’s literature and multiliteracy. In 1988, she obtained her PhD from Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland) for a thesis entitled Child Bilingualism: a linguistic and sociolinguistic study, and in 2005 she was awarded an Habilitation by the University of Strasbourg for her research on bilingualism in the home and school contexts. This research was published in 2007 by l’Harmattan (Paris) under the title Du Bilinguisme en famille au Plurilinguisme à l’école and in 2008 was the subject of the documentary film directed by M. Feltin “Raconte-moi ta langue/Tell me how you talk”. Since 2009, Christine Hélot has been a visiting professor on the Master in Bilingual Education run by the University Pablo de Olavide (Sevilla, Spain). In 2011/2012, she was a guest professor at the Goethe University of Frankfurt Am Main (Germany) in the Institute for Romance Languages and Literatures. Dr Hélot has published widely in French and English. Her most recent publications include: C. Hélot, R. Sneddon, N. Daly (2014) Children’s Literature in Multilingual Classrooms, IOE Press/Trentham Books, Développement du langage et plurilinguisme chez le jeune enfant (2013) with M-N. Rubio, Toulouse: érès, Language Policy for the Multilingual Classroom: Pedagogy of the Possible (2011) with M. O’ Laoire, Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


March 3, 2016
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Event Category:


ARC Conference Room 5318
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016 United States


Advanced Research Collaborative
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