By Andi McDaniel
“Quebec is my first love for a French-speaking country," says Janis Pallister (Ph.D. ’64), Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Romance Languages at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University. Pallister, who did her undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies at the U, has spent long periods of her life in Quebec, the first of which was her undergraduate semester abroad in 1943.
“French gives you access to so many different countries and cultures, as well as their literature and cinema," she explains. Pallister has been inspired to travel by her extensive study of French-language literature, which she has taught, researched, and written about throughout her long career. She even taught African literature for a period, which she expanded upon by studying Swahili and journeying throughout Africa, including Senegal, Tunisia, Kenya, and Morocco.
But lately, it’s women film directors who have been captivating Pallister’s intellectual imagination, especially great women directors like Agnes Varda, Claire Denis, and Hejer Charf. Since her retirement in 1985, Pallister has begun publishing books on film, such as the seminal guides, The Cinema of Quebec (1995), Francophone Women Film Directors: A New Guide (2004), and French-Speaking Women Documentarians (2006).
As for whether she would encourage students to choose French studies, Pallister laughs, “Of course! I think the whole world should learn French. And Spanish." Studying a language, she goes on to explain, is important and “not only for access to literature and cinema. Every language reflects a culture’s perspective. Through their language, you get an idea of how they view things."
And in Pallister’s view, that’s one of the most important tools there is.