Helene Bilis
Associate Professor of French, Wellesley College

Helene Bilis
Helene Bilis received her Ph.D. in French literature from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008, the same year she joined the French department at Wellesley College.

Professor Bilis specializes in the literature and culture of early modern France, in particular how theater became a space in which to dramatize, promote, and reflect upon the theories of sovereignty advanced by the French monarchy. The same period which saw the rise of absolutism, the coup d’état, and divine-right monarchy witnessed the development of neoclassical tragedy, a heavily theorized genre whose poetics often coincided with, but also challenged, ancien régime political aims.

Recent publications have focused on feeble kings and the crises of dynastic succession they provoke on the tragic stage. Her current book-project looks at the ways playwrights from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries portrayed the judicial process and royal judges on stage, in a time when a notion of legality separate from the king was beginning to emerge. The study addresses scenes of royal judgment in the works of Jean Rotrou, Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine, and Voltaire.

Professor Bilis coordinated an Albright Institute summer seminar devoted to the study of the coup d’état from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century. Along with Sarah Wall-Randall, a colleague from the English department, she organizes a faculty interdisciplinary working group on Medieval-Renaissance studies sponsored by the Newhouse Center for the Humanities. Bilis teaches courses ranging from French conversation and composition, to seminars on early modern theater, on representations of queens and princesses in literature, and on literary portrayals of France as a nation.