I work on premodern literature and history in French, their resurgence in the hands of creators in modern and contemporary cultures. Research takes me into libraries to investigate hand-written books made around 1400, papers and and documents from the last century. My method: an equal focus on words and images.
Timely Fictions, the book I’m currently completing, composes an almanac for our times with major premodern forms of fiction. The book is supported generously by the Guggenheim Foundation.
Thinking with premodern forms today has also led me to co-convene a collaborative project on migration in areas where romance languages are spoken. Migrants Shaping Europe, Past and Present: Multilingual Literatures, Arts and Cultures, co-edited with Vincent Joos, is forthcoming in 2022, in print and Open Access.
Medieval Roles for Modern Times is my first essay in this style of historical understanding. The book tests the case of theater – the aesthetics and politics of mystery plays performed by generations of the Great War and World War II. Awarded a National Humanities Center grant, it’s translated and adapted in French: Un Moyen Âge républicain.
My seminars revolve around debate. I ask students at all levels to develop their critical imagination. We work in French. Students tell me often that adopting another language can free you to express what you’re discovering about the world –and yourselves – in a new way. This debate regularly involves collaborators; in recent years, we’ve worked with fellow-scholars and writers in Paris and Beirut, journalists and human-rights activists in Tunis, artists in Bandjoun and New York.
Image: Belleville; photograph by CL Krueger
Home page image: Michael Healy, Seascape