Professor of French
The bulk of my teaching and research concerns the early modern period, essentially the 17th and 18th centuries. My latest book, just published with Cambridge UP, isTechnologies of the Novel: Quantitative Data and the Evolution of Literary Systems. The study, which was supported by a Guggenheim fellowship, aims to be the first quantitative history of the novel: it traces the incubation, development, and subsequent abandonment of a variety of formal devices via a systematic sampling of the production of French- and English-language novels over the years 1600-1830. Drawing from studies of the evolution of technological artifacts, I argue that the novel is not one evolving (or “rising”) entity, but rather a system composed of discrete forms in constant but patterned flux. My previous book, Before Fiction: The Ancien Régime of the Novel (U Penn Press, 2011), awarded the 2013 ASECS Gottschalk prize for best book on the 18th century, offers a history of the novel from the point of view of fictionality (for me, the notion that literary characters need not be “real people”); some of the methodological points raised in that study propel the data-driven approach of Technologies of the Novel. My current long-form project is on the making and unmaking of aesthetic hierarchies in literature and the visual arts from the Renaissance to the present.
The Townsend Center Book Chat on Technologies of the Novel (April 7, 2021, with Prof. Dorothy Hale) can be found here. A related podcast from Stanford's Center for the Study of the Novel, featuring discussants Margaret Cohen, John Bender, and Chloe Edmondson, is here.
Introduction from Technologies of the Novel (Cambridge UP, 2021);
“Histories of Fiction.” Modern Language Quarterly 82.2 (2021);
“The Evolution of the Novel System in the Long Seventeenth Century,” in Cambridge History of the Novel in French, ed. Adam Watt (Cambridge University Press, 2021);
"Pseudofactuality,” in Handbook of Narrative Factuality, ed. Monika Fludernik and Marie-Laure Ryan (Berlin: Gruyter, 2020);
“The Artifactuality of Narrative Form: First-Person Novels in France, 1650-1830,” Poetics Today 39.1 (2018);
“Phèdre, Racine, and the French Classical Stage,” in A History of Modern French Literature, ed. Christopher Prendergast (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017), 190-211;
Before Fiction: The Ancien Régime of the Novel (U Pennsylvania P, 2011);
Lafayette’s Zayde: A Spanish Romance (trans., U Chicago P, 2006);
Being Interior: Autobiography and the Contradictions of Modernity in Seventeenth-Century France (U Pennsylvania P, 2001).