Barry Lydgate

Barry Lydgate Professor of French at Wellesley College
(781) 283-2439
B.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Yale University
GRH 228B

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 a 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 autoécriture and what happens to literary structure when the teller of a tale is also its principal subject. Saint-Germain-des-Prés (FREN 237) looks at a quartier of Paris that for a few years in the 1940s and '50s thought of itself as the exact geographical center of the intelligent world. The course considers works by 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 online interactive programs of my design that give them access to textual meaning and cultural references as they listen in real time. More recently I have taught a Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing (FREN/CPLT 359, Advocating for Other Cultures), in English, for majors in the languages and Comparative Literature, and others interested in cultures other than our own. I will teach that seminar again in spring 2020.

After a year studying 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 our beginning course in language and culture, FREN 101-102. The backbone of the course is an online multimedia program, French in Action, of which I’m co-author.  Developed by Wellesley and Yale with major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, French in Action pioneered the concept of the “flipped classroom” (now known as “blended learning”) in which course content is structured for delivery online, freeing up class time for discussion and practice. FREN 101-102 adopts this blended approach, fully integrating online materials with work in class. 

I was chair of the French Department from 2011-2015, and have served several times as director of Wellesley-in-Aix, the college’s study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence, France.  For many years I was 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, and serve on that committee again this year.

I’m a dedicated cyclist, cook, music-lover, traveller and oenophile. My partner Melanie Morgon and I enjoy spending off-duty time on Block Island, RI. 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.