“I want to help develop new educational plans built around the concept of enjoyment”
Victor, an ENS graduate in his second year of studies for the Master’s degree in Humanities hosted by Ecole Normale Supérieure - PSL and Ecole Nationale des Chartes - PSL, describes his academic career, his passion for poetry, and his desire to share his knowledge by teaching.
A practicing poet and author, ENS graduate Victor is in his second year of studies for the Master's degree in Humanities, where he can study Latin, draw inspiration from Spinoza, rhapsodize over Corbière, and generally give free rein to his love of literature.
As a top student in his final year at a Montpellier high school, Victor got good grades in science. Having no clear idea yet of what he wanted to study, he did some research and let himself be swayed by the suggestion that he should take a preparatory course in economics. When he received his posting, he suddenly realized that it was a mistake, and instinctively decided to take a new path. At the last minute, he opted instead for his second choice on the list: the preparatory course in literature at Lycée Joffre.
“My parents were surprised, and probably a bit worried, but they trusted me. I had loved learning about literature since I was a small child, but I was much better at science than history and had studied almost no Latin. It was something of a leap of faith, guided by the intuition that I would like it.”
As it turned out, his intuition was right. After three years of preparatory classes, Victor achieved the 10th highest score on the ENS competitive exam in 2018.
“The preparatory course offered a very serene experience without too much rivalry. I loved our classes and our professors. I came into my own, and I really enjoyed studying lots of Latin and closely analyzing literature. It was at the end of my first year that I heard about ENS, during a presentation about potential next steps. I had always wanted to teach, and Ecole Normale was a perfect match for what I wanted to do. People warned me that the exam was intimidating and highly competitive, but I wasn’t going into it with any preconceived notions of my own and I was able to keep that mindset. I took 3 years of preparatory classes, and I scored high on the exam. I chose the Rue d’Ulm school, because when it comes to literature, Paris is paradise!”
Now an ENS graduate, Victor chose the “Humanities” Master’s under Dominique Combe, whom he knew through his work on literary theory, poetics, and connections between literature and philosophy. In his second year, as part of the “Literature: Theory and History” track, he completed a thesis on Tristan Corbière, a French poet of the late 19th century, under Combe’s supervision.
“I was familiar with Tristan Corbière’s work thanks to one of my preparatory course professors, who had suggested reading him. I was immediately hooked by the style of his unique collection Les Amours Jaunes. It was funny, dark, and extraordinary. At the same time, I had also read a few articles that Dominique Combe had written about Corbière. Studying him again for my Master’s seemed like an obvious choice, and I really enjoyed it. Not only my thesis director, but also the general environment were exceptional. We have a great deal of freedom at ENS, and the Master’s program encourages us to ignore the traditional divisions between disciplines. A philosophical approach, for example, allowed me to better understand concepts such as identity and anonymity. These ideas served as lead-ins for my Master’s thesis, and I’m currently planning to deepen them even further by very probably writing a PhD thesis on the author.”
A thesis on Tristan Corbière, a year of studies at Columbia University in New York, taking the teaching exam in modern literature or philosophy, perhaps a novel soon... Victor is looking forward to an array of exciting possibilities. He is already at work on a poetry collection slated for release soon. To Victor, the common thread that ties all these opportunities together is his desire to share and pass along his knowledge. Every two weeks, along with other ENS students, he spends 3 hours teaching general literature to first-year high school students in Meaux and Aubervilliers, and he also tutors middle school students. This commitment, rooted in philosophy, is his motivation:
“Teaching and tutoring help me to learn. Spinoza’s ethical philosophy really struck a chord with me. In substance, and very simply, it states that the things we love help us grow, and the things we do not love make us smaller. I saw too many students in Khâgne suffering by studying subjects they didn’t like or weren’t good at. I’ve experienced both of those situations myself. I firmly believe that personal growth and creativity should be at the center of educational policies, and I hope that one day I will be able to contribute myself.”
Victor published his first poetry collection; in a little while, he will likely teach at a university, or perhaps college, to “help develop new educational plans built more around the concept of enjoyment,” as he puts it. We hope that our children will learn from him how to combine knowledge, ethics, and poetry into a beautiful philosophy of life.