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Female Friendship Among Topics at 2012 MLA Convention

Miléna Santoro

French professor Miléna Santoro looked at roles portrayed in the Canadian film "Elles étaient cinq," which translates to "The Five of Us" for the annual Modern Language Association's annual convention.

January 23, 2013 – French professor Miléna Santoro presented a paper at this year’s Modern Language Association (MLA) annual convention explaining how supportive female friendships can play a pivotal role in women rebuilding their lives after psychological trauma.

“The fact that, in difficult times, same-sex friendship is of crucial importance to women (on par or even more valuable than support from a spouse or partner) has actually been confirmed by various studies and is recognized in trauma literature as well,” says Santoro, who explored the topic through a Canadian film.

Santoro delivered her essay, "Elles étaient cinq; or How Female Friendship Survives Trauma," at the convention earlier this month in Seattle, where she examined roles portrayed in the film Elles étaient cinq, which translates to “The Five of Us.”


Strength of Friendship

The film details one woman’s efforts to rebuild after a traumatic stabbing and rape with the help of her childhood friends.

Santoro, who also teaches in the Film and Media Studies program, lays theoretical groundwork to show how the strength of friendship allows the film’s lead character to both recall her trauma and find her voice. Her work was one of several papers presented by Georgetown faculty members, who also presided over or participated in panel discussions at the convention.

Bridge Language

Brian Hochman, assistant professor in the department of English, also presented at the convention.

His paper, "Frozen Evanescence: Writing Plains Indian Sign Talk,” considers the history of a highly developed system of sign language communication that, until the early 20th century, served as a bridge language for Native American tribes that spoke in different tongues.

“I quickly discovered that the language has a rich and unique history,” said Hochman.

Sound of the People

Georgetown graduate student Clara Shea analyzed how popular music has become a way for Lebanese young people to explore their national identity at the convention.

 “The younger generation in Lebanon is expressing and defining itself in part through music, which is why it makes for such interesting and pertinent study,” says Shea, who is currently pursuing a master’s in Arabic.

Other Georgetown researchers who presided over or participated in MLA panels included:

  • Caetlin Benson-Allott, assistant professor of English
  • Heidi Byrnes, George M. Roth Distinguished Professor of German
  • Elliott Colla, associate professor of Arabic and Islamic studies
  • Emily Francomano, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese
  • Joseph Fruscione, lecturer or English
  • Tania Gentic, assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese
  • Gwen Kirkpatrick, professor of Spanish and Portuguese
  • Kavita Mudan, lecturer of English
  • Karin Ryding, professor emeritus of Arabic and Islamic studies
  • Robert Patterson, assistant professor of English
  • Peter Pfeiffer, professor of German
  • Marianna Ryshina-Pankova, assistant professor of German

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