People in French

Mon ultime priùre: Ô mon corps, fais de moi toujours un homme qui interroge!

— Fanon

DĂ©borah Blocker

Associate Professor

  • Office Location: 4221 Dwinelle
  • Office Hours: Tuesdays 12-2

Deborah Blocker’s CV


Déborah Blocker (ENS Ulm, Lettres 1990 and Ph.D. University of Paris III, 2001) is associate professor of French and affiliated faculty in Italian Studies. She specializes in the social and political history of literary practices in early modern France and Italy, with a particular interest in theater, learned societies (academies), the development of aesthetics and galanterie. Her research relies heavily on the history of the book, as well as on manuscript studies.

Her first full-length study (Instituer un ‘art’: politiques du thĂ©Ăątre dans la France du premier XVIIe siĂšcle, Paris, Champion, 2009) examined the social and political processes through which early modern French theater was instituted into an art (1630-1660). This project led her to develop a larger curiosity for the social and political constitution and circulation of discourses on poetry and the arts in early modern Europe (1500-1900).

Since 2008, DĂ©borah Blocker has researched the social and political circumstances in which new conceptions of art emerged in the academic culture of late Renaissance Florence, through an in-depth archival study of the Accademia degli Alterati (1569-ca. 1625). Her second book, Le Principe de plaisir: savoirs, esthĂ©tique et politique dans la Florence des MĂ©dicis (XVIe-XVIIe siĂšcles) revolves around this micro-historical case study will appear with Les Belles Lettres in Paris in 2019. Le Principe de plaisir also constitutes the central piece of DĂ©borah Blocker’s Habilitation Ă  Diriger des Recherches, which will be defended at the University of Paris IV on December 7, 2017, with François Lecercle (Comparative literature, University of Paris-IV) as “garant”, under the overarching title of “Plaisirs, instrumentalisations, pouvoirs: pour une histoire sociale et politique des conceptions des discours et pratiques esthĂ©tiques dans l’Europe de la premiĂšre modernitĂ© (1550-1850)”.

In 2010-2011, DĂ©borah Blocker’s work was generously supported by a Florence J. Gould Fellowship at the Villa I Tatti, Harvard University’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, located in Florence ( She has also received two major research fellowships from UC Berkeley’s Townsend Center for the Humanities (in 2006 and 2016).

DĂ©borah Blocker’s current research project is a comparative endeavor tentatively entitled Entre Retraite et ralliement: politiques du plaisir lettrĂ© dans la France moderne (1550-1750). The central purpose of this third book is to recontextualize the aesthetics of literary and social pleasure that flourished in Italy and in France, from the late 16th century to the second half of the 17th century, as well as the literary practices that developed in conjunction with these hedonistic representations. The book purports to situate these social practices and literary productions not only in context of the materialist intellectual tradition from which they clearly stem, but also within the framework the social and political tensions that then characterized French and Italian aristocracies — and of which theses productions were in fact a manifestation. The book’s central aim is to show that delimiting secluded literary and social spaces in which to focus on their “pleasures” was both a way for these aristocratic groups to reclaim a form of social and political autonomy vis-Ă -vis authoritarian power and part and parcel of their strategies of social and political reintegration, by which they ultimately hoped to be selected to serve the very princes whose growing authority they nonetheless frequently opposed. The book will show that literature and aesthetics as we know them are, to a large extent, a by-product of these pragmatic social and political tensions, rather than preexisting activities and/or “genres” of writing, in which these tensions could conveniently be expressed. The study will first consider Marguerite de Navarre and her group of followers, as depicted in L’HĂ©ptamĂ©ron, Giovan Battisa Guarini’s aesthetics of pleasure, as staged in his Pastor Fido, and Torquato Tasso and his readership(s), as reflected by the reception of his pastoral play Aminta and in the readers’ responses to his epic poem The Jersualem delivered. It will then move on to studying the trajectories and productions of the major courtly and/or aristocratic authors in 16th and 17th century France, focusing in particular on Malherbe, Racan, Vincent Voiture, MoliĂšre, Paul Pellisson and Mlle de ScudĂ©ry.

 Publications include:


  • Le Principe de plaisir: savoirs, esthĂ©tique et politique dans la Florence des MĂ©dicis (XVIe-XVIIesiĂšcles), to appear with Les Belles Lettres (
  • Instituer un “art”: politiques du thĂ©Ăątre dans la France du premier XVIIe siĂšcle, Paris, HonorĂ© Champion, 2009, 540 p.
  • PremiĂšres leçons sur les Fables de La Fontaine, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1996,120 p., prefaced by GĂ©rard Ferreyrolles (2ndedition: 1997).

Journal issues edited

  • Forthcoming: AcadĂ©mies et universitĂ©s en France et en Italie (1500-1800): coprĂ©sence, concurrence(s) et/ou complĂ©mentaritĂ©?, five papers edited plus an introduction written in collaboration with Dinah Ribard, and a conclusion by Maria Pia Donato, to be published in Les Dossiers du GRIHLin 2017.
  • XVIIe siĂšcle, n° 270, 2016/1, p. 3-132: “AuctorialitĂ©, voix et publics dans le Mercure galant. Lire et interprĂ©ter l’écriture de presse Ă  l’époque moderne”, edited in collaboration with Anne PiĂ©jus, eight articles published, plus a joint introduction (p. 3-8)

Selected journal articles and published conference papers (since 2008):

  • “Territoires de savoirs et espaces de temporalitĂ©s: le sublime de Boileau aux prises avec quelques ‘modernitĂ©s’”, in Seventeenth-Century French Studies, 29, 2007, p. 113-123.
  • With Elie Haddad, “Protections et statut d’auteur Ă  l’époque moderne: formes et enjeux des pratiques de patronage dans la querelle du Cid (1637)”, French Historical Studies, 31, 3, 2008, p. 381-416.
  • « Une ‘muse de province’ nĂ©gocie sa centralitĂ©: Corneille et ses lieux», Les Dossiers du Grihl, 2008-1, LocalitĂ©s : localisation des Ă©crits et production locale d’actions, July 2008.
  • Co-authored a section entitled “Patronages, actions, Ă©criture dans le parcours de Jean Mairet”, composed of a short presentation and two articles: Laurence Giavarini and Elie Haddad, “L’art de la dĂ©dicace selon Jean Mairet” and DĂ©borah Blocker and Elie Haddad “De la scĂšne Ă  la diplomatie: usages de l’écriture lorsque Jean Mairet quitte le thĂ©Ăątre (1639-1643)“, LittĂ©ratures classiques, 68, 2008, p. 35-63.
  • “Publier les ‘arts’ Ă  Florence sous Cosme I de MĂ©dicis: une PoĂ©tique d’Aristote au service du Prince”, in AISTHE, II, 2, 2008, p. 56-101 (a translation into Portuguese is appended).
  • “Le lettrĂ©, ses pistole et l’acadĂ©mie: comment faire tĂ©moigner les lettres de Filippo Sassetti, accademico Alterato (Florence et Pise, 1570-1578)?”, LittĂ©ratures classiques, 71, 2010, p. 31-66.
  • “Theatrical identities and political devices: fashioning subjects through drama in the house of cardinal Richelieu (1635-1643)”, in David Warren Sabean and Malina Stefanovska (ed.), Space and Self in Early Modern European cultures, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2012, p. 112-133.
  • “Corneille et l’art poĂ©tique: appropriations, dĂ©placements, reconfigurations”, in Pratiques de Corneille: actes du colloque de Rouen (6-9 juin 2006), Rouen, Presses Universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2012, p. 213-228.
  • “Servir le prince par la philologie: AndrĂ© Dacier (1651-1722), un Ă©rudit dans l’orbite du pouvoir royal”, Seventeenth-Century French Studies, 35/1, 2013, p. 3-22.
  • “S’affirmer par le secret: anonymat collectif, institutionnalisation et contre-culture au sein de l’acadĂ©mie des Alterati  (Florence, 1569 – ca. 1625)”, LittĂ©ratures classiques, 80, 2013, p. 167-190.
  • “The Accademia degli Alteratiand the invention of a new form of dramatic experience: myth, allegory and theory in Jacopo Peri’s and Ottavio Rinuccini’s Euridice(1600)”, in Katja Gvozdeva, Tatiana Korneeva and Kirill Ospovat (eds), Dramatic Experience: The Poetics of Drama and the Early Modern Public Sphere(s), Leiden, Brill, 2016, p. 77-117.
  • “Pro or/and anti-Medici? Political ambivalence and social integration in the Accademia degli Alterati(Florence, 1569 — ca. 1625)”, in Jane E. Everson, Denis V. Reidy and Lisa Sampson(eds.), The Italian Academies 1525-1700: Networks of Culture, Innovation and Dissent, London, Routledge, 2016, p. 38-52.

Articles submitted or in preparation

  • “La haine du plaisir et son envers: MoliĂšre, L’École des Femmes, ses querelles et le discours anti-thĂ©atral”, in La Haine du thĂ©Ăątre: dĂ©bats et polĂ©miques (AntiquitĂ©-XIXesiĂšcle), as a volume of the journal LittĂ©ratures classiques edited by Clotilde Thouret and François Lecercle.
  • “The Prince’s academy and the Florentine patriciate’s accademia privata: a fresh look at the creation of the Accademia degli Alterati and its subsequent interactions with the Medici rĂ©gime (1569-1587)”, in Against the Medici: Art and Dissent in early Modern Italy, edited by Alessio Assonitis (Medici Archive Project).
  • “Commenter la PoĂ©tique d’Aristote dans les universitĂ©s italiennes du milieu du Cinquecento: un travail intellectuel envisagĂ© au miroir de ses pratiques d’écriture et de publication”, in Francesco Robortello: rĂ©ception des Anciens et construction de la modernitĂ©, edited by Monique Bouquet et alt.
  • “From book history to the social and political history of aesthetics: shedding light on the readings of Aristotle’s Poeticsdeveloped within the Alterati of Florence (1569-ca. 1630)”, to be published in a volume entitled Beyond Aristotelian Poetics: New Directions in the Study of Literary Criticism in the Renaissance, of which Bryan Brazeau is the volume editor. The book will be part of the Bloomsbury Studies in the Aristotelian Tradition series, currently being edited at Bloomsbury by Marco Sgarbi (
  • “Deux professeurs en RĂ©publique: de la promotion sociale par les lettres Ă  la redĂ©finition de leurs fonctions socio-politiques”, a short essay on the parallel careers of Alain Viala and Georges MoliniĂ©, for the Festschrifte dedicated to Alain Viala, currently in preparation at the Presses de l’UniversitĂ© d’Arras under the direction of Marine Roussillon, Sylvaine Guyot and Marie-Madeleine Fragonard.
  • “Tous pour un et un pour tous ou de l’activitĂ© de penser en commun mais non en rond(s)”, an essay celebrating the G.R.I.H.L.’s 20th birthday, to be published in the fall of 2017 in Les Dossiers du G.R.I.H.L.