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Nicholas Paige

Professor of French
4212 Dwinelle Hall
Spring: Tuesday 2-4 or by appointment

Research Areas

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, provides 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 working on a series of interlocking case studies that, taken together, will offer a way of modeling the evolution of cultural artifacts (and the discourses circulating around them) that departs from long-dominant modes of “historicizing.”

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.

Selected Publications

"The 'Willing Suspension of Disbelief': The Long History of a Short Phrase." The Routledge Handbook of Fiction and Belief, ed. Alison James, Akihiro Kubo, and Françoise Lavocat (Routledge, 2024), 28-40.

"La Religieuse et le problème de la sensibilité." Lecteurs et actes de lecture dans les écrits de Diderot, ed. Adrien Paschoud and Thomas Klinkert (Slatkine, 2023);

"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).