In Spring 2018, Jonathan Cayer and Jessamine Irwin offered a new class in collaboration with the Alternative Break program. This class focused on the Francophone experience in New England and Quebec and explored issues of linguistic and cultural identity, cultural and historical memories and cultural and linguistic preservation. The course culminated with a 8-day trip to the regions studied during Spring break and combined service and cultural tourism.
Our first stop was Lowell, MA. Lowell is the birthplace of Jean-Louis Kerouac, more commonly known as Jack Kerouac. Our students had read Kerouac’s French writing and were particularly eager to discover whence he came. In Lowell, we had the incredible good fortune of being hosted and shown around by Roger Brunelle. Roger is a Francophone born and raised in Lowell who combined a wonderful depth of knowledge about the history of the French-Canadian population of Lowell with an infectious passion for Kerouac. Alternating between anecdotes and Kerouac’s quotations, his tour of Lowell was a masterful display of showmanship and erudition.