Vicki Mistacco

Professor Emerita of French

Committed to sharing with students the rich heritage of women's writing in France from the Middle Ages to the present.

I began my academic career as a specialist of the 20th-century novel, with a dissertation and early publications on ambiguity in Gide and Mauriac. I later became interested in reader theory, focusing on challenges to reading in the New Novel and Robbe-Grillet in particular. I have since turned my attention almost exclusively to feminist literary theory, women's writing, and women's literary history. In this vein, I have published feminist readings of fiction by Albert Camus, studies of Marguerite Duras, Chantal Chawaf, George Sand, and Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis, among others. My major contribution to the field has been a two-volume anthology of women's writing in French from the Middle Ages to the present: Les femmes et la tradition littéraire: Anthologie du Moyen Age à nos jours. I am currently working on a project called "The Impulse to Anthologize" which studies anthologies, biographical dictionaries, and other compendia of women's writing published by women between 1750 and 1970. Building on my work on the relationship of women writers to literary tradition, I want to uncover and make public this neglected tradition of women literary historians.

I enjoy helping students, in language courses such as Studies in Language and Literature and Film in Cultural Contexts, learn to express themselves with precision and elegance. I also enjoy teaching a variety of 300-level courses on the novel and women's writing: Male and Female Perspectives in the 18th-Century Novel, in which major women’s novels are read in dialogue with traditionally recognized masterpieces by their male contemporaries; Narrative in the 20th Century, which examines challenges to the “great narratives” of the past by 20th-century writers ranging from André Gide to Assia Djebar; Women, Language, and Literary Expression, on the crucial notion of difference in fiction by 20th-century women writers in France; and a seminar on the poetics of the Other and the practice of écriture féminine in the works of Marguerite Duras. My 200-level course, Mothers and Daughters, traces the evolving representation and cultural significance of this complex relationship in literature and art from the late seventeenth century to the present. Women and Literary Tradition, an introduction to French literature focusing on women writers, was the impetus behind the publication of my anthology Les femmes et la tradition littéraire, which evolved from materials originally created for this course.

I am a long-standing member of the Sweet Briar Junior Year in France National Advisory Board. I have served on the advisory board of Modern Language Studies and as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities. I currently serve on the H-France Book Review Advisory Panel. In keeping with my work on women's writing, I have been presenting my research at every conference organized by Women in French and I have participated similarly in colloquia held in France on women writers and women's literary history.

I enjoy travel, photography, art, gardening, and cooking. I revel in the beauty of France and the French language.