Marc Eli Blanchard
Professor of Comparative Literature
1942 – 2009
“J’ay vu en mon temps cent artisans, cent laboureurs, plus sage et plus heureux que des recteurs de l’université, et lesquels, j’aimerais mieux ressembler” *
“L’apologie de Raymond de Sebonde”
Michel de Montaigne
A professor at UC Davis for 39 years, Professor Marc Blanchard was a brilliant scholar and innovative teacher. He possessed an insatiable imagination and intellectual breadth that drove him to expand his own research interests while vigorously challenging established pedagogical and curricular traditions.
Born on Oct. 12, 1942, in Portugal as his French father and French Jewish mother were fleeing the Nazi threat during World War II, Blanchard’s first home was in Argentina. From there, the family moved to Egypt. After the war, they returned to Paris where in 1965 he completed his education by earning the highest degree at the Sorbonne in Romance Languages, Comparative Literature, and Classics. He immigrated to the U.S. to take a position as assistant professor of Romance Philology and director, La Maison Française at Columbia. He came to UC Davis in 1971 as assistant professor of French, and later joined the Comparative Literature Program.
Fluent in French, English, Spanish, and German, Blanchard became a renowned scholar in critical theory in the 1970s and 1980s and, later, a specialist in Latin American literature and culture, and Caribbean Studies. He published numerous books, among which are Trois Portraits de Montaigne (1990) and In Search of the City (1985). Author of nearly a hundred scholarly articles, whose topics ranged from the sixteenth-century French writer Michel de Montaigne to Alejo Carpentier, the twentieth-century Cuban writer, his publications appeared in such leading journals as Critical Inquiry, Modern Language Notes, Yale French Studies, Semiotica, and Anales del Caribe, the publication of the Casa de las Americas, Havana. In 1984, he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. In his long career, he gave public lectures and speaking tours in Europe and in the U.S, and from the 1990s on, in Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela.
At UC Davis, he founded the Critical Theory Program and the Humanities Program, helped to build the Comparative Literature Program, while also teaching or mentoring in the French, Spanish, Cultural Studies, and Community Development programs.
Marc Blanchard was a bold and dedicated teacher, who encouraged students to confront apparent boundaries, master new subjects, and think unconventionally. As graduate advisor in French for several years, he mentored many students to successful careers in academia, placing them at institutions like the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, among others. Of his many achievements, however, he was proudest of helping advance underrepresented students to completion of undergraduate, professional, and doctoral degrees that placed them in successful careers in the U.S. and Europe.
One of his most important accomplishments was breaking new ground in cultural relations with Cuba. While that country was off-limits for academic exchanges, Professor Blanchard forged a relationship with the Cuban government and the world-renowned Casa de las Americas in Havana. He then steered a complicated course through the U.S. State Department to establish a quarter abroad program in Cuba in 2001, one of only six such programs offered by U.S. institutions. He took students to Havana annually until 2008 when his health began to decline.
Awarded the distinguished professor title in 2006, he won the Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching in 2009. He is survived by his wife, Raquel Salgado Scherr and his daughter, Lauren Blanchard.
Raquel Salgado Scherr
* [I have seen in my time a hundred artisans, a hundred laborers, more wise and happy than the rectors at the university, and I would rather resemble them.]