Michele Respaut

Professor Emerita of French

Teaches and publishes in a wide-ranging interdisciplinary perspective, with a focus on literature and medicine.

At the 200 level, my Love/Death course spans several centuries of French fiction and investigates the connections between fiction and film and our fundamental preoccupation with the issues of love and loss. In Baudelaire/Verlaine/Rimbaud, we explore the body of three 19th-century French poets, who rank among the most influential in world literature. My French 300-level seminar, Colette/Duras: A Pleasure unto Death, offers a selection of the best representative texts of these two prolific women writers.

In keeping with my research in the field of literature and medicine, I was the Wellesley Summer Symposium director for The Healing Arts: Medicine from a Multidisciplinary Perspective. I offer two courses on that topic: a French course, A Fascination with Bodies: the Doctor’s Malady, and Literature and Medicine, a Comparative Literature course taught in English, which investigates literature’s obsession with medicine. Literary and cinematic representations of doctors and patients, disability and pain, insanity, AIDS, birth, death and grief, the search for healing and the redemptive power of the arts inform the student’s exploration.

Several of my articles have been published in journals such as The French Review, Literature and Medicine, the contemporary French Studies journal, websites, and in the MLA publication Teaching Literature and Medicine. My last publication on Jacques Doillons’s French film, Ponette, the Perennial Mourning Child, is featured in a special issue devoted to children and illness in the journal Literature and Medicine. My current research is on mourning children/children in mourning.

A recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Pinanski Prize, I have chaired the French Department many times and have directed the Wellesley-in-Aix program four times.