The Project

madeleineportrait (2)

Madeleine Blaess. Portrait taken in Paris 1940-44.

The Madeleine Blaess Project is based at the University of Sheffield and is led by Dr Wendy Michallat from the School of Languages & Cultures. Madeleine died in 2003 and she bequeathed her books and papers to the University where she had worked as a lecturer in the French Department since 1948. In 2014 Dr Michallat came across the diary along with other fascinating letters and papers from the Phoney War and the immediate post-war in the Special Collections division of the University of Sheffield library. The catalogue for the Madeleine Blaess collection is available to consult here

The Project has been Dr Michallat’s research focus for several years and over the course of that time has seen a number of scholarly articles based on the diary and Blaess’s letters from Paris before the German invasion in the Spring of 1940. In addition to these journal articles and book chapters, Dr Michallat has been working on a film and a translation of the diary and both are now completed and will be available in Spring 2018.

The Diary Translation

The White Rose University Press (WRUP) is an open access digital publisher run jointly by the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York.  The publisher and its open-access platform are, for a number of reasons, ideally suited to publish the English translation of this unique document. Madeleine had links with all three institutions running WRUP. She was educated and raised in York, went to the University of Leeds to read French and worked in the French Department at the University of Sheffield until her retirement in 1983.  Other than during the Occupation and a brief spell in Paris 1946 she lived in Yorkshire all her life. The Project has national and international relevance of course. The diary represents an unprecedented and unique account of everyday life in Paris written by a British student and it figures the mundane, banal and the tragic through a rarefied cultural milieu of expatriate intellectuals, But, it has a strong Yorkshire identity too and this identity comes through strongly in both Madeleine’s diary writing and in her letters from Paris to her parents during the Phoney War.

The fact that the diary is Open Access will make it much more flexible for use in teaching and will mean that Madeleine’s story and the research accompanying it, will be available to a broad audience comprising scholars from a range of disciplines and the general public.

The annotated translation of the diary will be published in Spring 2018.  It comprises 125,000 words contained in five chapters which map the years between 1940 and 1944. Each year chapter is prefaced by an introduction comprising original empirical research and the volume also comprises a general introduction, biographies of main personalities and an index of key places. Madeleine’s cultural life which comprised cinema, theatre, opera and reading is also meticulously documented. Each event, film and book is referenced with dates and where possible information about the author/playwright and the work itself.

Much interest has already been shown in the diary which will be available as an Open Access download or a print-to-order paper copy.  To register interest in the diary and receive notification of when it will be available, please complete this form:

320 rue St Jacques: The Diary of Madeleine Blaess

The Documentary Film

A 35 minute documentary film based on Madeleine’s diarised account of her life in Paris during the Occupation has been made and produced by Wendy Michallat filmmaker James Parsons.  The documentary comprises interviews with friends of Madeleine and with academics who provide engaging historical and cultural context for the diarist’s year by year narrative of her experience of Occupation. The film has already had a test showing at the Being Human Festival which took place in Sheffield’s Weston Park Museum in November 2017 and will be screened again at the launch of the translated diary in Sheffield in Spring 2018. If you are interested in attending that event and would like to received notification of the date, time and booking arrangements, please would you complete this form:

Launch of the Diary and Film Showing: Sheffield, Spring 2018




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