Tom Bishop, a professor at NYU since 1956, founded the Center for French Civilization and Culture in 1978. The Center functioned as the overarching structure connecting the Department of French, the Institute of French Studies (also founded by Tom Bishop in 1978), La Maison Française, and NYU-Paris.
Critically, the Center is a hub for cultural and intellectual exchange between New York and Paris. It is a Centre d’Excellence recognized by the French government, and as its Director, Tom has been honored multiple times, receiving the Palmes académiques (Academic Palms), the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (the Order of Arts and Letters), the Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit), and the Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honor), of which he was made Officer in 2006. He has also been awarded numerous prizes including the Grand Prix de l’Académie Française for his promotion of the French language, directly reflecting his contributions to exchanges between France and the US.
The Center for French Civilization and Culture has staged at least one major cultural and academic event in France or the US annually since its inception. Among its highlights were two events at the Pompidou Center in Paris, “Beckett dans le siècle” (1986) and “Hommage à Samuel Beckett” (1990), as well as a Beckett theater festival held in 1996 in collaboration with Lincoln Center. Other notable events have celebrated the works of leading French writers and thinkers such as Sartre, Beauvoir, Genet, Barthes, and Duras. Bringing together American and French writers, scholars, and artists, these events have typically represented major interventions into - and summations of - important figures in contemporary French culture. These and other activities organized through the Center reflect the key research interests of Tom himself: namely French theatre, fiction and thought in the second half of the twentieth century, and Franco-American intellectual exchange.
Tom’s dedication and leadership have been deeply felt by the Center and its many connections, and we are grateful for his service.