B.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University
Professor of French
Interests: intellectual history of the French Renaissance; confessional writing; post-war Paris; exploring the power of interactive media to teach language and culture.
The French 16th century is the principal focus of my research and teaching. I’m especially interested in the ways in which the introduction of printing altered the relationships of writers and readers in the 1500s, creating unprecedented levels of literacy and demand for books, exacerbating political and religious tensions, and producing new forms of narrative art. (This revolution in the production and consumption of texts in the sixteenth century is of course not wholly foreign to readers in the twenty-first.)
Autobiographical and confessional narratives are another focus of my teaching. My course Books of the Self (FREN 217) examines what happens to literary structure when the teller of a tale is also its principal subject, and how narrators seek to convince readers that they have an objective distance on their lives. Saint-Germain-des-Prés (FREN 237) looks at the culture of Paris in the post WW II period—Sartre, Camus and de Beauvoir, but also Raymond Queneau and Boris Vian, and popular songs of the ‘40s and ‘50s, which transmit the feel of the period in ways no text can match. Students in that course work with songs via web-based interactive programs of my design that give them access to textual meaning and cultural references as they listen in real time. In 2014-15 I taught a Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing (FREN/CPLT 359) in English for majors in the languages and Comparative Literature, and will teach it again in spring 2016.
After a year at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (rue d'Ulm) in Paris and stints as Carnegie Teaching Fellow at Yale and Dean of Branford College, one of the Yale residential colleges, I came to the Wellesley French Department in 1973, receiving tenure in 1980. I’ve been committed to language teaching since arriving at the department, where I teach an intensive course in language and culture, FREN 103-203. The backbone of both courses is a multimedia program, French in Action, developed by Wellesley and Yale with major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (French in Action, of which I am co-author, pioneered the concept of the “flipped classroom.”) The Third Edition of the French in Action books was published by the Yale University Press in 2013 and 2015.
I have served several times as director of Wellesley-in-Aix, the college’s study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence, France, and was for many years campus liaison officer for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and chair of the college committee that supports Wellesley students for Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell and Churchill scholarships and Watson Fellowships. I was chair of the French Department from 2011-2015, and currently serve on the college Honor Code Council and the Merit Committee of Academic Council.
I’m a dedicated cyclist, music-lover, traveller and oenophile. My partner Melanie Morgon and I enjoy spending off-duty time on Block Island. Mention of my three children may seem an afterthought in the context of an academic profile, but I love them more than anything else in life.