In February 2016, the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris, INALCO, offered its third year university students a unit on Maltese language and literature. The unit was designed and taught by Dr Adrian Grima, senior lecturer in the Department of Maltese of the Faculty of Arts.
In 2015, the University of Malta, through the Department of Maltese, re-established its Erasmus partnership agreement with this renowned French university. Collaboration in the fields of linguistics and the study of literature and popular culture between the Maltese Department and INALCO has been going on for many years and Prof. Albert Borg has played a major role in fostering this exchange.
The exchange was first established in the 1990s through the efforts of Prof. Dominique Caubet, formerly Head of the Department of Maghrebi Arabic at INALCO, and Prof. Manwel Mifsud and Prof. Albert Borg from the Department of Maltese. Together with Prof. Marie Alexander and Prof. Ray Fabri from the Institute of Linguistics, and Edgar Paul Magro, they lectured for successive years at Inalco. This collaboration was established in the context of the establishment of AIDA, Association Internationale de Dialectologie Arabe.
Adrian Grima was invited to INALCO by LACNAD, the Department of Languages and Cultures of North Africa and the Diasporas, to teach a course called “Initiation au maltais” to third year students. His lectures focused both on the history and the constituent elements of Maltese language and literature and on the ways in which they have been developing in recent years.
Materials used in the unit ranged from a recording of the “Cantilena”, the oldest text in Maltese language and literature, to songs by Walter Micallef (“In-Nofsinhar”) and Plato’s Dream Machine (“Int”). Dr Grima also made presentations on literature to students taking other units at BA and MA level, as he did during his first visit to INALCO in March 2015.
On Wednesday 24 February, Adrian Grima and the Paris-based cultural operator and translator Elizabeth Grech gave a well-attended public lecture at INALCO on the theme, “Une littérature au carrefour de la Méditerranée. Écritures maltaises contemporaines.” This was followed by a discussion led by Prof. Mourad Yelles, co-director of LACNAD. The speakers gave the audience of lecturers, students, cultural operators, and the general public an overview of the thematic and stylistic characteristics of contemporary Maltese literature.
Elizabeth Grech and Adrian Grima also explored the literary, cultural and political developments that have led to the rise of a cosmopolitan generation of Maltese-language writers. For the first time, some of the more prominent writers in this new generation are women and a good number are poets and novelists living outside Malta.
The collaboration between the Department of Maltese and INALCO continues in May with a round table conference on oral traditions to be held in Malta. One of the main speakers will be Prof. Mourad Yelles.
Dr Adrian Grima’s two-week visit was funded by the EU staff mobility programme Erasmus+.