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Thomas Corbani

Doctoral Candidate
4310 Dwinelle

Research Areas

19th-21st century French and Francophone Literature; Sexuality Studies; Intersection of the Sociology of Literature and Structuralist Theory; Orientalism; Maghrebi Studies; Classical Reception; Trans Studies.


I work on nineteenth through twenty-first century French literature. I am writing a dissertation titled “Le Style de l’homme pour l’homme: Male Homosexuality, Antiquity and the French Literary Imaginary, 1860-1990.” I argue that in this period, French authors write same-sex sexual practices with an ear to what makes them linguistically specific. Take, for example, the phrase les deux amants s’embrassèrent: how can we make clear that it’s two men who are involved? How have authors made the most of the very fact this needs to be clarified? My dissertation traces the new stylistic techniques developed by those who ask these questions through a mixed corpus of historical novels and poems set in Antique history, from Gustave Flaubert's Salammbô all the way to Hervé Guibert's Vous m'avez fait former des fantômes. These texts also have in common a certain critical distance vis-à-vis practices of literary realism; in contrast to studies of male homosexuality in works of French realism, my dissertation’s boldest claim is that the representation of new forms of same-sex sexuality responds to the literary field, and not social change.

Before landing on this dissertation project, I thought a lot about contemporary North-African literary and cultural production. My most recent project in this vein looks at representations of transfemininity in Morocco, the rapidly changing cultural landscape surrounding it, and the authors who have taken an interest in it.

I started in the French Ph.D. program at Berkeley in 2019. I completed my MA here in 2021, and my undergraduate education at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania four years before that. In the interim, I was living in New York City teaching French at a language school. I’m French-American, and grew up in the UK until I moved to the US for college, though for better or for worse, you can't really hear it. 

Thanks to the support of a Chateaubriand Fellowship, I am spending the 2023-24 academic year in Paris to conduct archival research and get the most out of a BNF punch card. 

Selected Publications

2022. "D'un roman plus que le nom: Édouard Louis's Histoire de la violence, a reflexive, gay novel." Modern and Contemporary France, 30:1.