french Faculty Books

L’ensemble de La Comédie Humaine est le résultat d’un immense travail de révisions et de transformations s’étalant de 1829 à 1855. De façon nouvelle et diversifiée, cet ouvrage aborde ce travail.

Les études qui y sont réunies abordent des questions jusqu’alors peu étudiées : le rôle de la correspondance de Balzac pour une compréhension plus complète du projet et du travail de l’auteur, l’importance de l’archive manuscrite pour la compréhension de l’entreprise balzacienne, le jeu infiniment complexe et riche du travail sur les manuscrits de théâtre, les déplacements d’œuvres d’édition à édition.

Enfin, l’étude précise de la genèse d’œuvres singulières, particulièrement significatives, permet de suivre l’invention d’une forme moderne de représentation du monde social, ainsi que d’un style narratif particulièrement fécond pour l’avenir du roman.


Romanesque Signs: Early Medieval Narrative and Iconography is a classic of medieval scholarship that laid the foundations for viewing literature as an historical artifact that should be read in conjunction with the art, architecture, sculpture and religious rituals produced in the same period. It was the first book to argue that the materiality of representation—how art was created, performed, displayed in its own time—must be taken into account in order to understand its levels of meaning. It also showed that the way this art engages with the history it inherits—secular history, sacred history, intellectual history—is of crucial importance for understanding how and why it was produced as it was. Underlying the book’s thesis is the recognition that Romanesque art reflects history, the world, and sacred history as themes that must be interwoven and choreographed in and as a performance. Hence the term “performative mimesis” used to describe it. The book seeks to overthrow post-Reformation boundaries between the sacred and the secular in order to show that in the early Middle Ages these terms were co-extensive. The sacred and secular existed in equilibrium: the one did not seek to displace the other since they were part of a continuum, each referencing the other at every moment.


Le dix-neuvième siècle a connu une ambition encyclopédique nouvelle, il a rêvé d’un rapport assuré au monde et à la connaissance, mais il a connu aussi bien – ce faisant – un rapport déroutant à la fragmentation, à la pluralité, aux contradictions, aux illusions. Comment les «récits» érudits de ce temps travaillent-ils les représentations anciennes et les savoirs contemporains ? Comment font-ils jouer ensemble croyances, doutes et désir de savoir ? Savoirs en récits, I et II, explorent les tensions entre les savoirs positifs et la puissance des croyances et des mythes.

Ce deuxième volume réunit diverses versions de ces tensions : avec Balzac la recherche d’un absolu qui se dérobe; avec Nerval la quête mélancolique de la multiplicité des dieux ; avec Flaubert les investigations à la fois érudites et plastiques sur les mythes, les religions, l’Orient et l’Antiquité que sont Salammbô et Hérodias; avec Jules Verne l’épos d’un savoir amer, d’un secret pulvérisé; avec les Goncourt la mise en fragments de leur temps. Les bribes du sacré et les rumeurs du commun se confondent dans le siècle.


Styles of Enlightenment argues that alongside its democratic ideals and its efforts to create a unified public sphere, the Enlightenment also displayed a tendency to erect rigid barriers when it came to matters of style and artistic expression. The French philosophes tackled the issue of the hierarchy of genres with surprising inflexibility, and they looked down on those forms of art that they saw as commercial, popular, and merely entertaining. They were convinced that the standard of taste was too important a matter to be left to the whims of the public and the vagaries of the marketplace: aesthetic judgment ought to belong to a few, enlightened minds who would then pass it on to the masses.

Through readings of fictions, essays, memoirs, eulogies, and theatrical works by Fénelon, Bouhours, Marivaux, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Mercier, Thomas, and others, Styles of Enlightenment traces the stages of a confrontation between the virile philosophe and the effeminate worldly writer, “good” and “bad” taste, high art and frivolous entertainment, state patronage and the privately sponsored marketplace, the academic eulogy and worldly conversation. It teases out the finer points of division on the public battlefields of literature and politics and the new world of contesting sexual economies.


rethinking-the-medieval-senses book cover

How much can we know about sensory experience in the Middle Ages? While few would question that the human senses encountered a profoundly different environment in the medieval world, two distinct and opposite interpretations of that encounter have emerged—one of high sensual intensity and one of extreme sensual starvation.

Presenting original, cutting-edge scholarship, Stephen G. Nichols, Andreas Kablitz, Alison Calhoun, and their team of distinguished colleagues transport us to the center of this lively debate. Organized within historical, thematic, and contextual frameworks, these essays examine the psychological, rhetorical, and philological complexities of sensory perception from the classical period to the late Middle Ages.


Few filmmakers have taken the principle of the “talking picture” so far as Eric Rohmer, the internationally renowned director of the Moral Tales, Comedies and Proverbs, and Tales of the Four Seasons cycles. Occasionally dismissed as precious or overly literary, Rohmer’s features may leave the impression that there is more to listen to than to look at. Yet as the secretive director (b. Maurice Schérer in 1920) points out, dialogue is no less engaging than the best gunfights, and if his characters prefer discussing love to making it, they are no less the “heroes” of the stories they tell.

Charges of political conservatism aside, the author of My Night at Maud’s, Summer and such period films as Perceval and the all-digital The Lady and the Duke emerges —like Hitchcock before him—as a singular inventor of cinematic forms. This critical overview, which contains an extensive bibliography and a filmography, will appeal to students of film studies, French studies, and enthusiasts.



Winner of Modern Languages Association Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies

In this impressively interdisciplinary study, Evelyne Ender revisits master literary works to suggest that literature can serve as an experimental laboratory for the study of human remembrance. She shows how memory not only has a factual basis but is inseparable from fictional and aesthetic elements. Beautifully written in accessible prose, and impressive in its scope, the book takes up works by Proust, Woolf, George Eliot, Nerval, Lou Andreas-Salome, and Sigmund Freud, getting to the heart of essential questions about mental images, empirical knowledge, and the devastations of memory loss in ways that are suggestive and profound. Architexts of Memory joins a growing body of work in the lively field of memory studies, drawing from clinical psychology, psychoanalysis, and neurobiology as well as literary studies.


This book examines three first-person novels that narrate spectacular failures of self-representation. In an innovative move, the author grounds these failures in the narrators’ inability to move beyond Empiricist notions of correspondence between private, nonverbal experience and public expression, an inability that confines them to various forms of solipsism. Russo contends that such Empiricist notions still inform contemporary French novels and criticism. She deftly shows that current forms of linguistic skepticism favored by Blanchot, Sartre, Barthes, and Derrida are in fact the very product of the Empiricist notion of truth these authors claim to have rejected. Instead, she argues for the social and contextual dimension of language and against the illusion of authenticity on which these critics still rely. Her readings recast the debates surrounding postmodernism by placing them in a much-needed historical context.

Through a series of lively close readings of Prevost’s Histoire d’une Grecque moderne, Constant’s Adolphe, and Des Forets’s Le Bavard, Russo establishes the continuous legacy of Empiricism across three centuries. Prevost pins his narrator’s interpretive difficulties on an inability to know and categorize Oriental reality, Constant grounds his critique of language on the same ethical and political principles that underlie his liberalism, while Des Forets’s extreme solipsism pitches him against the Sartrean notion of engagement.


In a book both brilliant and lucid, Evelyne Ender explores the issue of sexual identity in the fiction, criticism, and psychoanalytic writings of the 19th century. She focuses on the figure of the hysteric, which, she says, came to represent a mind haunted by the questioning of gender.