Skip to main content

Entretiens de Pontigny collection

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS 0813

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of historical sketches, articles, notes, and books relating to the Entretiens de Pontigny conferences, particularly the sessions held at Mount Holyoke College in 1942, 1943 and 1944. Included is a comprehensive study of these meeting entitled Artists, Intellectuals, and World War II: The Pontigny Encounters at Mount Holyoke College, 1942-1944, edited by Christopher Benfey and Karen Remmler (2006). Also included are two historical sketches which summarize the events of the conferences and provide background information about participants. There are articles written about aspects of the conferences, including "Exiles in Arcadia: Gustave Cohen and the Colloques de 'Pontigny-en-Amerique' (1942-1944)" by Nadia Margolis in 1995; "The Ecole libre des hautes études (At the New School for Social Research)", 1993, and several articles relating to American poet Wallace Stevens who attended the 1943 conference. There is also a book and publicity material for an exhibit, "Exiles and Emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler" at the Los Angeles County Museum of during the winter of 1997 which included material relating to the conferences. Another book in the collection is entitled, "De Pontigny a Cerisy: un siecle de rencontres intellectuelles" (2002) by Claire Paulhan.


  • 1942-

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

The Entretiens (symposiums) de Pontigny at Mount Holyoke were a series of three summer gatherings held at the College from 1942-1944. The gatherings were modeled on the Decades, ten-day discussion meetings founded in 1910 and held in Pontigny, France until the German occupation during World War II. In 1942 a committee began exploring the possibility of continuing the conference in the United States. Members of this committee were Jacques Maritain, Ecole libre des hautes etudes President; Gustave Cohen, Dean of Humanities at the Ecole libre des hautes etudes; Helen Elizabeth Patch, chair of the French Language and Literature Department at Mount Holyoke College; Jean Andre Wahl, professor at the Sorbonne; Mrs. Raymond de Saussure, and Pierre Guedenet, a French professor at Mount Holyoke. With the support of the Ecole libre des hautes etudes and Mount Holyoke College President Roswell Ham, the first conference was held at Mount Holyoke in the summer of 1942. For three consecutive summers European and American intellectuals, musicians, artists, and writers attended these conferences. Discussions concerned poetry, literature, anthropology, diplomacy, music, science, and cinema. Topics included "Literature and the Idea of Crisis," "Problems of American Music," "Liberty and Authority," "The Responsibility of Literature in the World Crisis," and "The Place of the Spiritual in a World of Property." The conferences also featured performances of classical and modern music by many notable musicians. After the liberation of France in 1944, the Entretiens de Pontigny resumed in that country as the Decades.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 full Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



Entretiens de Pontigny; gatherings of intellectuals in France, founded in 1910 as Décades de Pontigny and held at Mount Holyoke College in 1942-1944. The collection contains historical sketches, articles, notes, and books primarily relating to the history of and participants in the conferences.


Series 1. Historical Sketches, Articles and Notes; Series 2. Books.

Entretiens de Pontigny collection, 1942-present
Finding Aid
Edited Full Draft
© 2003
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Encoding funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA