Catching up with...Charles Batson

Publication Date

Charles Batson, Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture, is professor of French and Francophone Studies. Possessing a certain je ne sais quoi, he is known for collaborating with faculty and students in music, dance, theater and literature projects, bringing together varied disciplines in thoughtful and engaging ways. He has written and worked principally on performance in Québec and France, and is involved with a number of exciting projects, including co-leading the international research project Circus and its Others.

FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING: With my very large and very strong bowl of coffee (thank you, France, for teaching me that particular joy of taste and sensation!), it is the New York Times that always first appears on my screen. Then Le Monde. Then the Guardian. Then Montreal’s La Presse. Always. Even back when travel was a thing, I’d find myself slowly waking up in some city somewhere, easing into my day, doing this same ritual. I must admit that I love it.

ONE BOOK YOU HAVE READ MULTIPLE TIMES: A bunch of them, including for classes, with new discoveries each time. But what’s the one my thoughts have been returning to this year? Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” and its intermingling of sensations, sounds and textures, all flavored through particular relationships to memory.

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED: I have posted on my office door one of the best pieces of advice that I think exists, written in the 16th century by Michel de Montaigne. “La plus grande chose du monde, c'est de savoir être à soi.” One translation of that line might be this: “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to be one’s own self.” Excellent, right?

FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS: Any spot where there’s sun.

GO-TO BREAKFAST: That strong bowl of coffee (see above!), always, no matter where. In France, though? That coffee with fresh croissants, from the pâtisserie just down the street.

NETFLIX OR AMAZON: Oh, ok, Netflix. But I also admit to getting a Disney + subscription, precisely to have access to two projects: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” and Beyoncé’s “Black Is King.”

FAVORITE PODCAST: “Dolly’s America.” Hands down the absolute best. The producers ask why it is that everyone seems to love Dolly Parton -- and they have answers to that probing question!

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD: I spend so much time in performance spaces (now including spaces where circus happens, with my current research directions toward circus studies), and I’m constantly in awe of the skills of the technical crews. Off stage, in the wings, in the control booths, with sound boards and pulleys and all manner of equipment and persons. I’m amazed at each time. And aware that I just don’t have a single one of those skills!

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PANDEMIC DIVERSION/ACCOMPLISHMENT: I cannot imagine what this year would have been if I hadn’t been able to spend time in Albany’s Washington Park, just a block away from where I live. And maybe it will come as a surprise to some people, but I get great joy in hiking and camping, as the picture (taken during the pandemic) might suggest!

ANOTHER SUBJECT YOU WISH YOU COULD TEACH: Oh, can I change this question to what I wish I could learn? Yet more languages!

MOST CREATIVE EXCUSE YOU HEARD FOR A LATE ASSIGNMENT: How can I not love creativity? The world needs yet more creativity!