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Meet the Fellows: 2016 Newcombe Fellow Chad Córdova

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This is one of a series of posts featuring Fellows from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation network.newcombe headshot

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph. D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2016 class of Fellows includes Chad Córdova, a doctoral candidate in French and Italian at Princeton University.

Mr. Córdova, a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, traces his evolution as a scholar to his early experience in Paris:

Like so many other non-French students or artists, past and present, when I began focusing on the language, art, and literature of France in college, it was under the spell of Paris— the city with its mythical history and lore. My time spent there as an undergraduate was the most formative period of my life. And over time my original, naive francophilia has, I’ll admit, hardly lost its luster, even if France today is world of difference away from the France of Pascal, or Sartre, which I study. Perhaps it’s the reason that I eventually gravitated to the canonical writers and philosophers I study in my thesis, figures whose texts are often part of the typical French curriculum, even in high school —a formation unlike anything we have in America. Hence the authors in my work have become somewhat synonymous with the old tradition of “French” thought, at its best (“I always think about Descartes!”) and, indeed, at its most notorious (“Oh la la… Foucault!?”; “I always thought Lacan was a mystic!”). Having had the privilege to spend another year in Paris, this time while writing my thesis, I’ve been able to benefit from great conversations about my project with a good number of students and professors. But the reactions of French people from outside academia, like those in the parentheses above, are equally interesting, and just as important to me, since I’ve always considered it crucial to pursue work that might speak to people who are not scholars for a living. Their reactions display the continual relevance of the canonical thinkers, and express their enduring, if rapidly changing, cultural status.

Mr. Córdova’s dissertation is titled The Being or Non-Being, of the Self: The Two Moments of French Antihumanism (1660–80 & 1960–80). For more information on the 2016 Newcombe Fellows and to see a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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