Professor of French
The bulk of my teaching and research concerns the early modern period, essentially the 17th and 18th centuries. My latest book is Technologies of the Novel: Quantitative Data and the Evolution of Literary Systems (Cambridge UP). 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”). Currently, I'm extending my quantitative approach to the evolution of "scenic" narration in the novel circa 1800. I also have in the works a long-form project on the making and unmaking of aesthetic hierarchies in literature and the visual arts from the Renaissance to the present. Both of these inquiries are seeking to model "change" in a way that breaks from more familiar practices of historicization.
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. For a 20% discount on the paperback edition, click on the book's cover below.
"Still Lifes and Sublime Vistas: On the Non-Modernity of Diderot's Approach to Genre Painting." Diderot Studies 38 (2022);
"The Comforts of Tartuffe," in How To Do Things with Style: Essays in Honor of Joan DeJean, ed. Roland Rascevskis and Amy S. Wyngaard (French Review Book Series, 2022);
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 Evolution of Literary Technologies: Sampling the Fictionality of the Novel,” NLH 48.3 (2017);
“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;
Preface and Introduction to 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).