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Déborah Blocker

Professor of French, affiliated faculty in Italian Studies
4221 Dwinelle Hall
On sabbatical leave 2021-2022 (Senior researcher in residence, École Française de Rome, Spring 2022)

Research Areas

Déborah Blocker 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 history of philology and the history of early modern aesthetics. 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 théâtre dans la France du premier XVIIe siècle, 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).

Between 2008 and 2018, Déborah Blocker researched the social and political circumstances in which new conceptions and uses of the “arts” emerged in the academic culture of late Renaissance Florence, through an in-depth archival study of the Accademia degli Alterati (1569-ca. 1625). In 2010-2011, her work was 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). Her second book, Le Principe de plaisir: savoirs, esthétique et politique dans la Florence des Médicis (XVIe-XVIIe siècles) revolves around this micro-historical case study and will appear with Les Belles Lettres in Paris in January 2022. Le Principe de plaisir also constituted the central piece of Déborah Blocker’s Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches (HDR, Paris IV, 2017). The overarching title of her HDR research project was: “Plaisirs, instrumentalisations, pouvoirs: pour une histoire sociale et politique des conceptions des discours et pratiques esthétiques dans l’Europe de la première modernité (1550-1850).”

Déborah Blocker is currently conducting a comparative investigation into the social and political history of early modern understandings of the “arts”  tentatively entitled  “Uses and conceptualizations of the “arts” among two major aristocratic lineages of the Mediterranean (1550-1700)." This project is a parallel analysis of engagements with “arts,” crafts and know-hows within two major aristocratic lineages of the Mediterranean world, the Montmorency of France and the Strozzi of Florence, Rome, and Venice. The projected study analyzes the family archives (correspondences, financial papers, household inventories, etc.), just as much as the “art” collections, libraries and monumental constructions (castles, churches, funeral chapels, mausoleums, etc.) of several of the most famous members of each of these families. The research is conducted from a microhistorical perspective — that is, by centering the analysis on the intermingled trajectories of a restricted group of individuals, within their specific social, cultural, and political circumstances. These circumstances are that of the rise of authoritarian (sometimes labelled 'absolutist') régimes, which, in early modern Europe, coincided which the progressive marginalization of many otherwise powerful aristocratic families and, more generally, with of that of the most distinguished members of the courtly élites, whose legal, financial, and political privileges, as well as social prestige, were progressively curbed to allow for the legitimization of more centralized forms of monarchical or princely power. The individuals who are studied prominently is this new project are, among the Montmorency lineage, Anne de Montmorency (1493-1567), Henri I (1534-1614) and Henri II (1595-1632) of Montmorency, as well as the wife of the latter, Marie-Felice des Ursins (1601-1666). Among the Strozzi, the research focuses on Piero (1510-1558) and Leone Strozzi (1515-1554), as well as on Giovan Battista Strozzi il Vecchio (1504-1571), Giovan Battista Strozzi il Giovane (1551-1634), and Carlo di Tommaso Strozzi (1587-1670) and his son Luigi Strozzi (1632-1687). These microhistorical investigations will support, at the macrohistorical level, the development of intricate comparisons between the French court nobility and the Florentine patriciate under Medici rule, as regards their uses and understandings of the "arts."

Déborah Blocker is also working on a digital scholarly edition of two Alterati manuscripts, in collaboration with Professor Ulrike Schneider (Freie Universität, Berlin) and Dr Veronica Vestri (archivist and paleographer, Prato). Further details on this project can be found here :


Déborah Blocker (ENS Ulm, Lettres 1990; DEA in Political Science — Sciences Po Paris, 1993; Doctorat in French Literature and Culture, University of Paris III, 2001; HDR in Comparative Literature, University of Paris IV, 2017) is Professor of French and affiliated faculty in Italian Studies. She has been an engaged member of the Groupe de recherches interdisciplinaires sur l’histoire du littéraire (or Grihl since its inception in 1996. She was visiting professor at the EHESS in Paris in the spring of 2014, and visiting senior research fellow at the Sonderforschungsbereichs 980 ("Episteme in Bewegung. Wissenstransfer von der Alten Welt bis in die Frühe Neuzeit”) in Berlin, in June-July 2019, within the framework of Teilprojeckt B05 (“Theorie und Ästhetik elusiven Wissens in der Frühen Neuzeit: Transfer und Institutionalisierung” — In the spring of 2022, she will be senior resident researcher in modern and contemporary history at the École Française de Rome, at the Palazzo Farnese in Rome ( At UC Berkeley, Déborah Blocker is also affiliated with the doctoral program in Romance Languages and Literatures (, on the executive committee of which she has served (2017-2020). She also sits on LIBR ( since 2018. 

Selected Publications


  • Premières leçons sur les Fables de La Fontaine, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1996,120 p., prefaced by Gérard Ferreyrolles (2nd edition: 1997).
  • Instituer un “art”: politiques du théâtre dans la France du premier XVIIe siècle, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2009, 540 p.
  • Le Principe de plaisir: savoirs, esthétique et politique dans la Florence des Médicis (XVIe-XVIIe siècle), forthcoming with Les Belles Lettres (coll. “Essais”) in Paris, in January 2022; 692 pages and over 40 illustrations.

Journal issues edited:

  • XVIIe siècle, n° 270, 2016/1, p. 3-132: “Auctorialité, voix et publics dans le Mercure galant. Lire et interpréter l’écriture de presse à l’époque moderne”, edited in collaboration with Anne Piéjus, eight articles published, plus a joint introduction (p. 3-8).
  • Les Dossiers du Grihl, 02 | 2021: “Académies et universités en France et en Italie (1500-1800): coprésence, concurrence(s) et/ou complémentarité?”, five articles published plus an Introduction, .

Digital humanities project:

  • "Studying Academic Discussions on the Art of Poetry in Late Renaissance Florence", a collaborative digital research project funded by the Cluster of Excellence 2020 “Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective”, at the Freie Universität in Berlin (, with Professor Ulrike Schneider (Institut für Romanische Philologie, Freie Universität, Berlin) and Dr. Veronica Vestri (Prato).

Selected book chapters, journal articles and published conference papers (since 2010):

  • ‘Le lettré, ses pistole et l’académie: comment faire témoigner les lettres de Filippo Sassetti, accademico Alterato (Florence et Pise, 1570-1578)?’, Littératures 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 poétique: appropriations, déplacements, 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: André Dacier (1651-1722), un érudit 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’académie des Alterati  (Florence, 1569 – ca. 1625)’, Littératures classiques, 80, 2013, p. 167-190.
  • ‘The Accademia degli Alterati and 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. Open access link:  
  • ‘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.
  • ‘Tous pour un et un pour tous ou de l’activité de penser en commun mais non en rond(s)’, texte rédigé à l’occasion des vingt ans du G.R.I.H.L., in À l’enseigne du GRIHL, Les Dossiers du Grihl, 2017-02, 2017 : .
  • ‘Deux professeurs en République: de la promotion sociale par les lettres à la redéfinition de leurs fonctions socio-politiques’, in Littéraire. Pour Alain Viala, edited by Marine Roussillon, Sylvaine Guyot, Dominic Glynn and Marie-Madeleine Fragonard, Arras, Artois Presses Université, 2018, p. 159-170.
  • ‘La haine du plaisir et son envers. Molière et la querelle de L’École des femmes’, Littératures classiques, 2019/1, n° 98, p. 119-132 ( ).
  • ‘Lire et commenter la Poétique d’Aristote en Italie dans la seconde moitié du Cinquecento : du commentaire érudit à l’élaboration d’une réflexion sur les arts’, in  Francesco Robortello: réception des Anciens et construction de la modernité, sous la direction de Monique Bouquet, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2020, p. 65-90
  • Shedding light on the readings of Aristotle’s Poetics developed within the Alterati of Florence (1569-ca. 1630) : from manuscript studies to the social and political history of aesthetics”, in The Reception of Aristotle’s Poetics in the Italian Renaissance and Beyond: New Directions in Criticism, edited by Bryan Brazeau, London, Bloomsbury,  p. 98-132. Accessible on e-Scholarship:  
  • ‘Experimenting with the Teaching of Academic Genres in the Target Culture: A Reflexive Testimony’, in L2 Journal, 2021, 13(1) :
  • ‘Establishing a Poetics of Theater in France under Cardinal Richelieu : From Processes of ‘Unknowledging’ to the Establishment of Worldly Expertise’, in Dynamiken der Negation. (Nicht)Wissen und negativer Transfer in vormodernen Kulturen, sous la direction de Sirin Dadas et Christian Vogel, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz Verlag, 2021, p. 353-373. Lien open access: l
  • In collaboration with Emily Linares: " Literacy en français and à la française : Socializing students to academic literacy practices in a foreign language", Foreign Language Annals, 2021, November 2021, p. 1-32, accessible at :

In preparation/forthcoming articles:

  • Forthcoming: an entry on the Accademia degli Alterati for a Dictionnary of Tuscan Academies edited by Jean Boutier and Maria Pia Paoli (19 p.). The dictionary is the product of the work of a collaborative research group based at the Centro Internazionale di Studi sul Seicento (University of Siena) and gathers up-to-date archival and bibliographical information on over 150 Tuscan academies. 
  • Forthcoming: ‘”Rien n’est beau que le Vrai”’ : l’abbé Batteux dans la Babel des Quatre Poétiques (1771)’, in proceedings from a conference entitled ‘Traduire la Poétique’ held at the University of Trento, Italy, March 4-6 2021.
  • In preparation, with Dr. Francesco Martelli (Archivio di Stato, Florence): ‘Arms, Letters and the Art of Writing the Vite of One’s Ancestors: Biographical Practices Among the Strozzi in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’, in Beyond the Medici: Patrician Culture in Florence circa 1600, edited by Francesca Fantappiè, Tim Carter, Maia Wellington Gahtan and Donatella Pegazzano, scheduled to appear with Brepols (Turnhout, Belgium).
  •  In preparation: ‘Arts, pouvoirs et mélancolie nobiliaire dans la France du XVIIe siècle : Marie-Félice des Ursins, dernière duchesse de Montmorency et le mausolée à la mémoire de son époux, Henri II de Montmorency (Chapelle de la Visitation, Moulins, Alliers).”
  • In preparation: ‘In, Out and Above : Fiorentinità, Marginality and the World(s) beyond Christendom in the Debates of the Alterati of Florence (1569-1630)’, for a multivolume history of early modern European literatures from a global perspective, entitled Textuality and Diversity: A Literary History of Europe and its Global Connections, 1545-1659 and edited by Warren Boutcher.