Florence Vatan

Senior Core Fellow
Period of Stay: 
October 2023 - June 2024
Literature, Comparative Literature
University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Project Title: 
Transfers of Knowledge: Gestalt Psychology and its Repercussions in France
Project Abstract: 

How does knowledge evolve and reconfigure itself when it crosses disciplinary and national boundaries? How do concepts and ideas travel from one field of inquiry to another? This book project investigates an overlooked chapter of the cultural transfers between France, Germany, and the US: the influence exercised by Gestalt psychology on French thought in the twentieth century, notably in the works of the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, and the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Through a close examination of academic curricula, translations, publications, and personal papers, I analyze the impact of this theoretical paradigm and the ways in which these thinkers appropriated and transformed the notion of “Gestalt.” This project provides new insights into the French intellectual scene from the 1920s to the 1960s. It also sheds light on the dynamics of cultural transfers and on processes of knowledge formation.