People in French

Il ne faut jamais avoir peur d'aller trop loin car la vérité est au-delà.


DĂ©borah Blocker

Professor of French, affiliated faculty in Italian Studies

  • Office Location: 4221 Dwinelle
  • Office Hours: Thursdays 12 - 2 pm

Deborah Blocker’s CV


DĂ©borah Blocker (ENS Ulm, Lettres 1990 ; DEA. in Political Science — Sciences Po Paris, 1993; Ph.D. 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 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 development of aesthetics. Her research relies heavily on the history of the book, as well as on manuscript studies. She has been a member of the Groupe de Recherches Interdisciplinaires sur l’Histoire du LittĂ©raire (or GRIHL since its inception in 1996. At Berkeley, she is a member of the executive committee of the doctoral program in Romance Languages and Literatures (

DĂ©borah Blocker’s first full-length study (Instituer un ‘art’: politiques du thĂ©Ăątre dans la France du premier XVIIe siĂšcle, 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, DĂ©borah Blocker researched the social and political circumstances in which new conceptions of art 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, DĂ©borah Blocker’s work was generously 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, esthĂ©tique et politique dans la Florence des MĂ©dicis (XVIe-XVIIe siĂšcles) revolves around this micro-historical case study and is currently scheduled to appear with Les Belles Lettres in Paris in the fall of 2020. Le Principe de plaisir also constituted the central piece of DĂ©borah Blocker’s Habilitation Ă  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 esthĂ©tiques dans l’Europe de la premiĂšre modernitĂ© (1550-1850)”.

DĂ©borah Blocker’s current research project is a comparative investigation into the social and political history of early modern understandings of the “arts” between 1450 and 1800,  tentatively entitled  “Uses and conceptualizations of the “arts” among two major aristocratic lineages of the Mediterranean (1450-1800)” 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, 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, 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 raise of authoritarian (sometimes labelled absolutist) rĂ©gimes, 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 Ă©lites, 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 lineages, Anne de Montmorency (1493-1567), Henri I (1534-1614) and Henri II (1595-1632) of Montmorency, as well as the wife of the later, Marie-Felice des Ursins (1601-1666). Among the Strozzi, the research focuses on Filippo (1489-1538), 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 comparative perspectives between French court culture and the social and political economy of the Florentine principate under Medici rule.

Publications include:


    • PremiĂšres leçons sur les Fables de La Fontaine, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1996,120 p., prefaced by GĂ©rard Ferreyrolles (2nd edition: 1997).
    • Instituer un “art”: politiques du thĂ©Ăątre dans la France du premier XVIIe siĂšcle, Paris, HonorĂ© Champion, 2009, 540 p.
    • Le Principe de plaisir: savoirs, esthĂ©tique et politique dans la Florence des MĂ©dicis (XVIe-XVIIesiĂšcles), to appear with Les Belles Lettres, Paris, in the winter of 2020,; circa 450 pages.
  • Journal issues edited:
  • XVIIe siĂšcle, n° 270, 2016/1, p. 3-132: “AuctorialitĂ©, voix et publics dans le Mercure galant. Lire et interprĂ©ter l’écriture de presse Ă  l’époque moderne”, edited in collaboration with Anne PiĂ©jus, eight articles published, plus a joint introduction (p. 3-8).
  • In preparation: AcadĂ©mies et universitĂ©s en France et en Italie (1500-1800): coprĂ©sence, concurrence(s) et/ou complĂ©mentaritĂ©?, five papers edited plus an introduction written in collaboration with Dinah Ribard, and a conclusion by Maria Pia Donato, to be published in Les Dossiers du GRIHL.

Selected book chapters, journal articles and published conference papers (since 2008):

  • ‘Territoires de savoirs et espaces de temporalitĂ©s: le sublime de Boileau aux prises avec quelques ‘modernitĂ©s’’, in Seventeenth-Century French Studies, 29, 2007, p. 113-123.
  • With Elie Haddad, ‘Protections et statut d’auteur Ă  l’époque moderne: formes et enjeux des pratiques de patronage dans la querelle du Cid (1637)’, French Historical Studies, 31, 3, 2008, p. 381-416.
  • ‘Une ‘muse de province’ nĂ©gocie sa centralitĂ©: Corneille et ses lieux’, Les Dossiers du Grihl, 2008-1, LocalitĂ©s : localisation des Ă©crits et production locale d’actions, July 2008.
  • Co-authored a section entitled ‘Patronages, actions, Ă©criture dans le parcours de Jean Mairet’, composed of a short presentation and two articles: Laurence Giavarini and Elie Haddad, ‘L’art de la dĂ©dicace selon Jean Mairet’ and DĂ©borah Blocker and Elie Haddad ‘De la scĂšne Ă  la diplomatie: usages de l’écriture lorsque Jean Mairet quitte le thĂ©Ăątre (1639-1643)’, LittĂ©ratures classiques, 68, 2008, p. 35-63.
  • “Publier les ‘arts’ Ă  Florence sous Cosme I de MĂ©dicis: une PoĂ©tique d’Aristote au service du Prince”, in AISTHE, II, 2, 2008, p. 56-101 (a translation into Portuguese is appended).
  • ‘Le lettrĂ©, ses pistole et l’acadĂ©mie: comment faire tĂ©moigner les lettres de Filippo Sassetti, accademico Alterato (Florence et Pise, 1570-1578)?’, LittĂ©ratures 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 poĂ©tique: appropriations, dĂ©placements, 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: AndrĂ© Dacier (1651-1722), un Ă©rudit 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’acadĂ©mie des Alterati  (Florence, 1569 – ca. 1625)’, LittĂ©ratures 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.
  • ‘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’activitĂ© de penser en commun mais non en rond(s), texte rĂ©digĂ© Ă  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 RĂ©publique: de la promotion sociale par les lettres Ă  la redĂ©finition de leurs fonctions socio-politiques’, in LittĂ©raire. Pour Alain Viala, edited by Marine Roussillon, Sylvaine Guyot, Dominic Glynn and Marie-Madeleine Fragonard, Arras, Artois Presses UniversitĂ©, 2018, p. 159-170.
  • ‘La haine du plaisir et son envers. MoliĂšre et la querelle de L’École des femmes’, LittĂ©ratures classiques, 2019/1, n° 98, p. 119-132 (URL :
  • ‘Lire et commenter la PoĂ©tique d’Aristote en Italie dans la seconde moitiĂ© du Cinquecento : du commentaire Ă©rudit Ă  l’élaboration d’une rĂ©flexion sur les arts’, in  Francesco Robortello: rĂ©ception des Anciens et construction de la modernitĂ©, 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.

In preparation/forthcoming articles:

  • ‘Establishing a Poetics of Theater in France under Cardinal Richelieu: on the Social and Political Dynamics of an Emerging Unknowledge’ and ‘Academies and Universities in Late 16th Century Florence: Lorenzo Giacomini’s Della Cognitione di se stesso (1695) as a Reflection on Knowledge’, both to be published in a volume of collected essays entitled (Nicht)Wissen) – Dynamiken der Negation in vormodernen Kulturen, edited by Sirin Dadas and Christian Vogel, to appear with Harrassowitz Verlag (Weisbaden).
  • With 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 FantappiĂš, Tim Carter, Maia Wellington Gahtan and Donatella Pegazzano, scheduled to appear with Brepols (Turnhout, Belgium).