From studying Chinese, Spanish, and French in high school and adding Italian and German to her skill set in college, to working for the government of Monaco and eventually marrying a man from Milan, for Lauren Ravalico, a visiting assistant professor within the romance languages and literatures department, language encompasses all aspects of life.
Ravalico was born in Denver, Colo. within what she referred to as “a very monolingual family.” In seventh grade, she began her French studies, thus fostering her interest in language and culture. “I loved it from the first day,” she said. “I can remember sitting in class, and my Mademoiselle, whom I loved, said ‘architecture’-which is spelled the same way in English-in a French accent, and I found it so beautiful. I knew I was in the right place.”
Following middle school, Ravalico went to the largest high school in Colorado, which, due to its size, offered a great number of foreign language courses. She seized the opportunity, becoming very involved in language by learning Chinese and Spanish in addition to continuing French.
For her undergraduate education, she departed for the Northeast to attend Cornell University, where she spent a long time attempting to determine her major. Eventually, because applications to study abroad required her to declare a major, Ravalico chose French. “I really made the decision under duress-the day before the application deadline,” she said. Subsequently, through a program with Wellesley College, she studied abroad in the south of France in Aix-en-Provence during the second semester of her junior year. “A lot of people talk about how study abroad changes your life, and it really does,” Ravalico said, “I loved it-and my French was so good when I came back.”
In 2000, Ravalico graduated from Cornell with a bachelor’s degree in French in the midst of a booming economy, but without definitive ideas regarding her career path. “I didn’t really know what I wanted,” she said. After moving to New York City to live with friends, she looked in the newspaper under “bilingual” and found a listing for a job opening with the Consulate General of Monaco. Ravalico then applied and was accepted for a position in marketing for American tourism, a job requiring that she speak French, work in an office on Fifth Ave., and frequently travel to Monaco on business trips.
While she enjoyed her employment with the government of Monaco, she left New York in 2001 right before Sept. 11 for New Orleans, where her boyfriend was starting law school at Tulane University. Although “the boyfriend didn’t last,” Ravalico decided to continue her graduate education at Tulane and obtained her M.A. in 2004, realizing thereafter that she desired to pursue a Ph.D. “Learning French again in the classroom had an intellectual aspect that marketing didn’t have,” she said, discussing the difference between speaking French at her previous job and using it in her graduate and doctoral studies. Ravalico returned to the East Coast to attend Harvard University, and she graduated in 2011.
Subsequently, Ravalico moved again, this time to teach courses in French literature and composition at Ohio State University after never having visited the Midwest. Following the year she spent instructing in Ohio, in 2012 she began teaching at Boston College, where she now specializes in 19th-century French cultural studies, women in the arts, gender and sexuality studies, political equality, and visual culture.
Here, she mostly instructs 300- and 400-level fundamental French classes, as well as many 400-level seminars of her own design. Currently, she offers Marriage & Modernity, a course that investigates through literature and film how heterosexual marriage has shaped French culture, from the 1789 Revolution to the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. The French Revolution, for example, surrounded the idea of equality for all and led to the legalization of divorce and prevalent feminism, thereby facilitating controversy over the sanctity of marriage. “The subject is very interesting to me,” Ravalico said. “We’re looking at women in society, feminist thought, cultural history, good literature-the students really respond to it.”
Further, Ravalico discussed her enthusiasm for marriage and its implications. “Marriage is one of the main things we pursue in life, and we deal a lot with deconstructing assumptions about it,” she said. In the future, she hopes to continue instructing courses on the concept of equality-the ideal vs. the lived reality-as well as offer classes on taste and the French table. “I want to keep French relevant,” she said. “It was relevant for me, and I really want it to remain relevant for students today.”
Regarding her initial reasons for coming to the University, “I mean, what didn’t draw me to BC?” Ravalico said. “It’s a great department; I have the opportunity to teach interesting classes; the student body is smart and engaged; and Boston is a city I’ve come to consider home.”