Meet the Lectrice: Eglantine Pillet

Translated by Christopher McInnes
17 October 2016

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eglantineRebekah: Where are you from?

Eglantine: Well, actually where am I from? I was born in the UK but I am French. My family lived abroad when I was a child so I grew up in the UK and in the Netherlands. After living there, we moved back to Paris so I am Parisian.


Rebekah: Where did you live in the Netherlands?

Eglantine: We lived in a small town next to The Hague. It was really beautiful, it was on the coast, somewhat like St Andrews.


Rebekah: But you are French?

Eglantine: Yes, my parents are French.


Rebekah: Do you have any childhood memories [from the Netherlands]?

Eglantine: I remember that everything seemed magical in the Netherlands because the approach to [bringing up] children is different as they are considered like mini-adults. They are not at all treated like children so it is truly a magical environment in which to grow up.


Rebekah: I have been to the Netherlands but I picked up on the more material things. I love the canals with the little white bridges and the architecture. It was pretty.

Eglantine: It is true that there are a lot of canals and I remember that when I was little everyone would ice-skate and I am not very good at ice-skating; I have never managed to stand up on the ice. I am like Bambi in the film scene where he slides all over the ice. I have always thought that it was very impressive that Dutch kids learn to ice-skate from an early age.


Rebekah: Did you go to university?

Eglantine: Yes, I went to the Sorbonne in Paris where I studied English literature and researched the general medieval influence in Harry Potter.


Rebekah: So you didn’t study IR at Sciences Po? I thought that all of the language teachers studied there and that it was almost a prerequisite to come and work in the French department.

Eglantine: No, Mohammed [my colleague] went to Sciences Po but I went to the Sorbonne. I don’t know very much about politics. In fact, I am much more interested in literature, society and art.


Rebekah: I also don’t know very much about politics. Have you worked at other universities?

Eglantine: No, I have never worked in another university because before being a student again at the Sorbonne for the last two years, I used to work in a completely different industry. I used to be an illustrator working in animation.


Rebekah: Why did you choose to make a career change and come to St Andrews?

Eglantine: An opportunity came about to teach French at St Andrews. Also, I have always loved and dreamed about Scotland and it matched my research interests quite well. As I continue to research Harry Potter, it [St Andrews] seems to me to be the ideal environment in which to do so and some buildings remind me of Hogwarts.


Rebekah: I have never visited the University of Glasgow but they say that it has some buildings which really resemble Hogwarts.

Eglantine: Well, something to do at the weekend: visit the University of Glasgow.

Rebekah: Have you visited The Elephant House in Edinburgh?

Eglantine: It was the first place that I went to when I first went to Edinburgh. I really like the graffiti on the walls of the toilets.


Rebekah: I have never been. Is it expensive?

Eglantine: I really recommend The Elephant House because it is really nice. Taking into consideration that it attracts lots of tourists thanks to J.K. Rowling, I thought that it wasn’t too expensive. If I remember correctly, a hot chocolate costs around £3 so not too bad at all.


Rebekah: In which areas did you focus your research?

Eglantine: My primary interest is just to do research on Harry Potter. I am very lucky because it is not always the case that you can convince people that Harry Potter is a real literary work which should be studied at a very prestigious university. They are not just novels for children. There is really interesting, deep content and writing process.  My current research focus is to study the medieval influences found in Harry Potter.


Rebekah: Can you give any examples?

Eglantine: The influences which immediately come to mind are: King Arthur, Les Lais de Marie de France. There are also other influences from medieval culture and society like chess and alchemy.


Rebekah: Do you have a favourite character?

Eglantine: Yes, I love Professor Lupin because I think that he is the possibly the best teacher throughout the novels. He is kind in spite of the fact that he has a rough side to him (he is a ware-wolf). He also wants to help his pupils and that is important.


Rebekah: Do you have a favourite part or scene from the books or films which has taught you something or resonated with you?


Eglantine: So I don’t know if Harry Potter has taught me anything but I do have a favourite part from the books and it is unfortunately not in the films, which is sad. In the fifth book, Ron’s father is attacked and has to go to hospital. His family visit him and Harry, Ron and Hermione come across the professor Lockhart. It is a really funny part of the book. For me, it really represents the comical aspect of Harry Potter and the structure of the works where we follow the characters from one book to another. I love that. All the characters are present throughout the different books of the series. If you re-read the series, then you discover many things that you missed when you first read the series.


Rebekah: Have you ever played Quidditch?

Eglantine: (Laughter) No, but I would really like to watch a Quidditch tournament/match. I wonder if there are any in St Andrews.


Rebekah: I am not sure if we have them here. I saw one last week-end in Edinburgh. We can start a club with 25 people.

Eglantine: (Laughter) Really? Even with magic broomsticks?


Rebekah: What does your typical day look like?

Eglantine: During a typical day, I teach quite a few classes, and when I am not taking classes, I am preparing for classes because they require a lot of preparation. You prepare as much as possible so that the classes are interesting.  During my down time, when I am not working, I try to take advantage of living by the sea; I love living by the sea. I have also toured the town but you can do that pretty quickly. Nevertheless, it is very nice.


Rebekah: Is there something in particular that you really like about your job?

Eglantine: I love teaching because you can interact with your students and it doesn’t happen as I had imagined, each group is different. It is therefore really dynamic and I have learned many things and I hope that I have also taught my students something.


Rebekah: What do you like about living here?

Eglantine: Well, I already love the welcoming nature of the Scots – I have come across the same thing in Edinburgh and Dundee. People are very kind, which is very nice. I also just think that there is a community spirit in St Andrews. You get the impression that it is a small village.


Rebekah: I am in my final year. Do you have any advice for me?

Eglantine: My advice for you would be to take advantage of the fact that you are here, and don’t stress too much for exams because the student experience is not something that you will come across again out with studying, and it is truly unique. You should enjoy it while it lasts as they are the final stages of carefree living before you enter the real world. Really, just enjoy everything that university life offers and don’t stress [too much] about exams.


Rebekah: Any advice for those who are in their first year?

Eglantine: They should also enjoy the experience but at the same time they should also work hard because they have several years ahead of them! You have to find the right balance between having and enjoying a life that is separate from your studies. You should make friends because it is truly an opportunity to meet people who come from very different walks of life and so it is a ‘golden’ opportunity do so and harder to do so later in life.


Rebekah: I am now going to ask some fun questions. Which Countries have you lived in?

Eglantine: When I was little I lived in the UK and the Netherlands. I completed some of my studies in Luxemburg. I have also spent some time, several years, in Canada and France. And of course, I am now in Scotland.


Rebekah: What is your favourite French word?

Eglantine: I like the word ‘merci’ because of the definition rather than sound of the word.


Rebekah: Do you have any interesting stories from teaching here?

Eglantine: Not yet, everything has gone well (so far).


Rebekah: Do you have any interesting stories from your university years?

Eglantine: The Sorbonne, like here, is an ancient university. The buildings are very old and enormous with many corridors in which you can get very easily get lost. So a few funny situations occurred when I got lost.


Rebekah: The Buchanan building is very simple, however, there are buildings in St Andrews where you can very easily get lost. But it is not too bad as you get to go on little journeys. There is also the Bute Building (Biology) on Queen’s Terrance. It is near Regs Hall between South Street and a river. It is an enormous building with five floors and five entrances. There are staircases which cross over each other but do not join each other.

Eglantine: That is very strange.


Rebekah: There are floors which you can access from one staircase but not from another.

Eglantine: That makes me think of the comic series ‘Astérix et Cléopâtre’.  The Astérix comic book series is very well known in France and this book in particular. Astréix and Obélix go to Egypt and they meet Cleopatra’s architect who is trying to build a palace for her but it is completed wonky; there are staircases which lead to nowhere.


Rebekah: I think it is somewhat like that. They say that it is a really old building and in the past there were three floors with very high ceilings. Then they decided to build two more floors because there was still enough space. As there are two new floors, the old staircases don’t reach the new floors and so there are other new staircases. There are floors which have windows almost on the ground because they are on a new level and before it was a floor with a very high ceiling and window.

Eglantine: It is strange.


Rebekah: But is cool, you should go out and explore.

Eglantine: Yes, that really does make me want to go and explore.


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