Alex Johansen

Students can travel and visit tourist spots in Paris, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral (above), during the program’s four-day weekends.

Miami University students will have the opportunity to spend next summer in Paris, thanks to a program created by Gene Metcalf, professor of American Studies, in partnership with Kay Sloan, professor of English.

The program will run from May 23 to June 27, during the first summer session of classes. 

According to Metcalf, the courses will address how the arts in France influence American identity and also how American culture influences France.

“The point is to get students out of the classroom and experience Paris,” Metcalf said.

As for getting out of the classroom, Metcalf said students will spend their four-day weekends experiencing French artwork, cooking, music and dance to see how French culture leaves its imprint on America.

This includes learning about Impressionist art by touring museums and exploring Givenchy, where Claude Monet painted many of his famous works, according to Metcalf.  The group will take a cooking class and explore the world of American chef Julia Childs, who learned to cook in France, Metcalf said.

Sloan’s class will focus on both literature and music, while highlighting Americans from the south who came to Paris. She said she will integrate her southern background, American studies degree and writing experience into her course.

“So many southern African-American authors, such as Richard Wright, whom we will study, found a sanctuary in racially-integrated Paris,” Sloan said.

Sloan said she is enthusiastic about the topics of her course and the way these subjects will be explored on the streets of Paris.

“It is so exciting to think about how blues, dance and literature came to Paris,” Sloan said. “I am very interested in the dynamism of creative and artistic impulses made livelier by cultural exchanges.”

According to Metcalf and Sloan, the two courses will be symbiotic.

“We’re team-teaching, so both of our courses will relate to one another,” Metcalf said.

The program is made possible through the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), which organizes cultural exchange programs for more than 50,000 participants each year, according to the Paris program’s Web site,  

Metcalf said that the AIFS will come in the spring to address topics such as exchanging money, safety on the metro and telephone etiquette.

Metcalf has gauged interest in the program from students with a variety of majors, including political science, business, art education and engineering.

“We want people of all backgrounds, all majors,” Metcalf said.

The program will accept between 20 and 25 students based on a first-come, first-serve basis.

According to Metcalf, the courses are meant to be available in the same way as Miami plan courses in Oxford and they have no prerequisites.

Further, if a student has already taken either AMS 205 or ENG 271, accommodations may be made to arrange that part of the program as a three-credit hour independent study.

Sloan said she believes that studying abroad is important because it expands one’s awareness of other cultures.

“(Studying abroad) not only broadens your horizons about the world, but also broadens your perspectives about your own culture,” Sloan said. “When you return to the U.S., you see our culture through unfiltered lenses.”

Metcalf said his positive experience in Paris last summer accounts for why he will be taking students again.

“One of the things that made last year so fun was that we fulfilled our mission,” Metcalf said. “The goal of the trip is to make what we study come alive.”

For summer 2009, he will enlarge the program to include 10-15 more students than this past summer.

The program will likely take place again in 2010, with the possibility of adding a third course to expand the program to fill a thematic sequence, according to Metcalf.

According to Metcalf, three Miami Plan requirements will be filled by the two courses offered on the trip. The humanities and world cultures requirements will be filled by both of these classes while the historical perspective requirement can be applied to either course.

Each professor will teach a three-credit hour Miami Plan course.

Metcalf will teach “Paris and American Identity,” which will be credited as AMS 205. The second course, taught by Sloan, “Southern Literature and Culture: American Expatriates in Paris,” will count as ENG 271.

There will be two informational meetings, one at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Miami Indian Room in the Shriver Center, the next at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 20 in the Shriver Center’s Bystrom Room.

Metcalf said he hopes the applications will be available by the first week of November.