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Déborah Blocker

Professor of French, affiliated faculty in Italian Studies
5110 Dwinelle Hall
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4PM-5PM PST

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 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), which revolves around this micro-historical case study, appeared with Les Belles Lettres in Paris in 2022 : The book was a recipient of the Prix Monseigneur Marcel of the Académie Française in 2023. This prize annually honors two books devoted to "l'histoire philosophique, littéraire ou artistique de la Renaissance ». In March 2024, Déborah Blocker was also elected Deputata straniera of the Deputazione di storia patria per la Toscana, a public society of historians and archivists of Florence and Tuscany founded in 1862. 

Déborah Blocker is currently developing a new comparative research project which aims to study how the arts were used and conceptualized in two major aristocratic families of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Strozzi of Florence and Rome and the Montmorency of France. The project is based on a in depth comparative study of the construction and meaning of two major 17th century funeral monuments, the monument which Marie-Félicie des Ursins constructed in Moulins, France, in memory of her husband, the last duke of Montmorency, and the monument erected by Leone Strozzi in memory of his Strozzi ancestors in the church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle in Rome. She is also working collaboratively with two other colleagues, Ulrike Schneider (Freie Universität, Berlin) and Veronica Vestri (Prato) on a digital edition of two Florentine manuscripts, BMLF Ashburnham, 560 and 561. In these manuscripts, the Alterati of Florence collectively discuss the writing and evaluating of poetry among themselves, engaging in sustained aesthetic discussions. In 2021-2022, while on sabbatical leave, she was senior research fellow at the Cluster of excellence Temporal Communities, Freie Universität, Berlin (June-July 2021 and January 2022) and senior researcher in residence at the École Française at the Palazzo Farnese in Rome (February-August 2022).


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” — 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), and has recently joined the faculty of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion ( She also sits on LIBR ( since 2018 and is a member of the executive committee of the Berkeley Initiative for Free Inquiry ( since January 2024.   

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), Les Belles Lettres (coll. “Essais”), 2022, 696 pages and 42 illustrations.

Radio interview on Le Principe de plaisir (Chambre avec vue, with Camille de Rijck) on the RTBF, 09-05-2022 

Discussion of Le Principe de plaisir at the Accademia Toscana di Scienze e Lettere La Colombaria (Florence, Italy), with the participation of Maria-Pia Paoli (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), Jean Boutier (EHESS/CNRS), Amadeo Quondam (La Sapienza), etc. on 12-14-2023 (4-7pm) : .  

Book presentation and roundtable discussion on 03-23-2023 (4-7pm), at the Villa Médicis (Académie de France à Rome) : « Pratiquer les sciences et les arts dans les académies de la première modernité » with the participation of Déborah Blocker (UC Berkeley), Matthijs Jonker (Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome), Dinah Ribard (École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris), Maria Pia Paoli (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), and Samir Boumediene (KNIR Fellow / CNRS, Lyon) ( for details. 

Journal issues edited:

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 :
  • Introduction to issue « Académies et universités en France et en Italie (1500-1800) : coprésence, concurrence(s) et/ou complémentarité ? », in Les Dossiers du Grihl, 02 | 2021, p. 2-19  : 
  • « Mazarin, l’Italie et la France : nouveaux éclairages et paradigmes historiographiques persistants », a discussion of four recently published books, Archivio Storico Italiano, 2022/3, p. 563-572.
  • Two billets on Leone Strozzi and the Strozzi chapel in San Andrea della Valle in the Carnet Hypothèses of the École Française de Rome entitled A l’École de toute l’Italie : and

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.
  • Submitted, with Dr. Francesco Martelli (Archivio di Stato, Florence and Deputazione toscana per la storia patria): ‘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 Ghatan and Donatella Pegazzano, scheduled to appear with Brepols (Turnhout, Belgium).
  • 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.