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Lives entwined

Partners both professionally and personally, Mária and Daniel Brewer have received France’s highest honor for academics

By Kelly O'Brien

Mária and Daniel Brewer 165
Professors Mária (far left) and Daniel Brewer have received France’s highest honor for academics.

November 11, 2009

Professors Mária and Daniel Brewer are one of those academic couples people marvel at. Married in graduate school, they have found a perfect way to meld their professional and personal lives. They teach in the same University of Minnesota department, French and Italian. Their research areas--modern literature, theater, and critical thought (Mária) and the literature and culture of ancien régime France and the Enlightenment (Daniel)--complement each other, yet remain distinct. And since 2003 they have served as coeditors of the internationally renowned journal L'Esprit Créateur, which publishes articles on French and Francophone literature, film, criticism, and culture. Exploring all periods of French literature and thought, the journal has consistently helped define critical inquiry in French and Francophone studies.

The Brewers’ dedication to L'Esprit Créateur, along with many other contributions promoting French culture and language and bridging France and the United States, have earned them a rare distinction: On Oct. 16, they were made chevaliers* in the French Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

The Palmes Académiques are awarded by the French Ministry of Education. Started in 1808 by Napoleon I and institutionalized in 1955 by Edgar Faure, president of the Council of the Fourth Republic, the Palmes Académiques honor individuals who have made major contributions to the expansion of French culture.

Speaking in French at the awards ceremony held on campus, Cultural Attaché Marie-Anne Toledano cited several reasons why the Brewers’ award was exceptional. She highlighted the quality, richness, and creativity of their work, both individually and together, on L'Esprit Créateur. She noted that it’s rare for two people to be awarded the Palmes Académiques at one time, but even rarer that the awards go to a married couple, "a man and a woman united in solidarity and as productive in their professional lives as in their private lives." Finally, she thanked them for their "relentless energy in the service of disseminating the French language and culture, both classic and contemporary."

*The highest decoration in France, equivalent to knighthood in Britain.