Barry Lydgate


(781) 283-2439
B.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University

Barry Lydgate
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. What happens to literary structure when the teller of a tale is also its principal subject? How do narrators persuade readers that the “I” of a text has enough distance on his or her life to be able to speak of it objectively? My course Saint-Germain-des-Prés 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 better than any text can do. Students 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.

I’ve been committed to language teaching since I arrived at Wellesley. I teach the department’s intensive course in language and culture, French 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.”)

I have served several times as director of Wellesley-in-Aix, the college’s study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence, France. I 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 am currently chair of the French Department.

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.