Nov 15, 2023
226 Burrowes

Information Session Schedule

Tuesday, November 14th, 5:00 pm on Zoom (see above)

Wednesday, November 15th, 6:00 pm in 226 Burrowes

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Christina Sztajnkrycer

Heather McCoy

Oct 18, 2023
– 3:30PM
226 Burrowes Building

Lydie Moudileno is Marion Frances Chevalier Professor of French, with secondary appointments in the departments of American Studies and Ethnicity and Comparative Literature. Her research focuses on literary and cultural productions from the Francophone world, in particular the Caribbean, and West and Central Africa, as well as postcolonial France. Her books have examined issues of authorship and metaliterary representations in Francophone Caribbean literature, post-Negritude Congolese fiction and contemporary African fiction. They include:

  • L’écrivain antillais au miroir de sa littérature (2000)
  • Maryse Condé-une nomade inconvenante-ed (2002)
  • Parades post coloniales: la fabrication des identités dans le roman congolais (2006)
  • Littératures africaines francophones des années 1980 et 1990 (2019)
  • Postcolonial Realms of Memory-ed (2020)

She is also the co-editor of several volumes and special issues on literary representations of blackness in Francophone fiction, and on writers Maryse Condé and Marie NDiaye.

Her more recent work has focused examinations of race in contemporary French culture: Mythologies postcoloniales: Décoloniser le quotidien (Champion, 2018), a study of race in popular culture at the turn of the millennium inspired by the work of Roland Barthes, and Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Signs and Symbols in Modern France (Liverpool University Press, 2020), a collected and co-edited volume investigating traces of the colonial past in contemporary France.

Before joining USC Lydie Moudileno was Professor of Romance Languages, Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also directed the African Studies Center (Title VI NRC). She has held visiting professorships at NYU, Johns Hopkins University, the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, and the EHESS in Paris.

May 18, 2023
226 Burrowes Bldg

Candidate for the PhD in French and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Dissertation Committee:

Jennifer Boittin (Co-Chair and Dissertation Co-Adviser; Associate Professor of French, Francophone Studies, History, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Alicia Decker (Co-Chair and Dissertation Co-Adviser; Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, African Studies, and History)

Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François (Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Comparative Literature)

Greg Eghigian (Professor of History and Bioethics)

Christopher Forth (Professor of History, University of Kansas)


Western doctors made significant strides toward the formalization of modern fields of medicine like psychiatry and neurology during the Great War (1914-1918). Through this process of formalization, many experts participated in the earliest concerted efforts to write a model of psychological trauma into established scientific knowledge–an endeavor of which the far-reaching legacy can still be felt today. Indeed, the perspectives that shaped World War I medical models have informed, and continue to inform, Western societies’ ideas about what it means to be healthy or sick, normal or abnormal, natural or pathological. The Western world’s view of intellectual personae and scientific discoveries during the Great War also constitutes a cornerstone to cultural narratives woven throughout a number of modern human sciences, and has played a singular role in shaping history, the philosophy of Western psychiatry, and social memory of WWI. Research on this period is therefore essential to gaining a fuller understanding of the impact and influence of WWI medical models, particularly in the comparatively understudied Francophone context.

In this dissertation, I employ close reading and discursive analysis to trace networks of recurring language, images, and themes in influential French medical journal articles on trauma published during and immediately after the war (1914-1919). I demonstrate that, in their attempts to explain precisely what trauma was, doctors repeatedly returned to a medical construct of la volonté (willpower), a central marker of distinctly masculine health that was diametrically opposed to the alleged catalyst for men’s psychological undoing: l’automatisme. Historically conceptualized as the distinguishing factor between maleness and femaleness, willpower as a badge of self-control, self-determination, and cognitive ability had long ‘justified’ patriarchy and male supremacy. By comparison, l’automatisme symbolized uncontrollable elements of human experience frequently associated with femininity, such as emotions, reflexes, instincts, and the imagination. I demonstrate that French doctors theorized that, within a healthy man, la volonté rightfully ruled over l’automatisme, such that psychological trauma itself appeared to take place through the ‘unnatural’ empowerment of l’automatisme over la volonté. I expand on this theoretical foundation to illustrate how these terms–la volonté as masculinity and health, l’automatisme as the unmasculine and illness–overdetermined French doctors’ explanations of psychological trauma during a critical moment in the history of Western medicine. I work to reconstruct the broader model of trauma in this historical moment by highlighting major discussions around pressing issues such as desertion and “pathological fear”; the perceived need for separation between the healthy mind and the obedient body; influential theories on the “quasi-pathological” nature of North Africans that both echoed and served to advance racist and imperialist French agendas; and the most effective methods for treating psychological trauma in men.

Apr 28, 2023
– 4:30PM
Garden Room, Pasquerilla Center
Apr 24, 2023
– 12:00PM
226 Burrowes Building

Candidate for the PhD in French



All are welcome to attend!

Dissertation Committee:
Jennifer Boittin (Chair & Dissertation Advisor, Associate Professor of French, Francophone Studies, History, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)
Fabienne Kanor (Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies)
Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François (Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies, and Comparative Literature)
Burleigh Hendrickson (Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies) 

Robert Bernasconi (Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies) 

Jacqueline Couti (Laurence H. Favrot Professor of French and Francophone Studies, Rice University)


In my dissertation, I highlight remnants of slavery within the political practices of the Guadeloupean workers’ movement at the turn of the twentieth century. While this period remains understudied, I see it as a key moment in the political history of Guadeloupe and France. This was when Black Guadeloupeans joined the political realm under the banner of a radical political ideology—socialism—and rose to power within a decade. This socialist experiment came to an end in 1914, after a decade marked by political violence, corruption, and massive strikes by sugar cane workers. These two decades profoundly impacted the political reality of the colony through the growing involvement of Black Guadeloupeans in politics, both as elected officials and voters. I argue that Guadeloupean socialists anchored their action into what I call popular political practices (pratiques politiques populaires). These practices are spontaneous actions born out of indignation and often undertaken by women that take place within a public space and whose main goal is to contest specific inequities. However, they gradually rejected this filiation, instead aiming for cultural assimilation. Thus, this dissertation investigates the practices of citizenship in a post-slavery and colonial space.

My dissertation adds to our understanding of the different ways politics can be practiced in a post-slavery space. Indeed, Guadeloupean socialists often used both socialist and republican ideologies together to highlight the deep inequalities that prevailed for descendants of enslaved men and women. Yet because they partially anchored their political practices in practices of refusal that already existed during slavery, socialists often appeared to their political opponents and the colonial administration as threats to the colony’s order. By focusing on the politics of a peripheral space, such as Guadeloupe, my research highlights the fragilities of a French republicanism that has yet to fully come to terms with its colonial roots.

Apr 21, 2023
– 3:30PM
226 Burrowes Building

Candidate for the PhD in French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Sensible Bodies: Race and Sentimentalism in the Nineteenth Century

All are welcome to attend!

Dissertation Committee:

Bénédicte Monicat (Dissertation Advisor; Professor of French and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Tracy Rutler (Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Jennifer Boittin (Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies and History)

Hil Malatino (Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Philosophy)

Pratima Prasad (Associate Professor of French at University of Massachusetts–Boston)


            In “Sensible Bodies,” I ask how sentimentalism, a mode of writing that emphasizes the importance of feelings and that traverses genres and disciplines, intersects with discourses of racial difference in the nineteenth century. By reading across cultural arenas—science, literature, philosophy, and politics—I find ideological echoes even where no direct line of influence between thinkers/writers can be drawn. The corpus includes scientific treatises and essays, textbooks, novels, and short stories by one canonical author—George Sand—and several non-canonical writers—Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Pierre-Paul Broc, Aglaé Comte, Hortense Allart, and Sophie Doin—ranging from 1809 to 1853.

            I argue that sentimentalism in the nineteenth century produces a structure of thinking/feeling that hierarchizes whiteness over other forms of racialized embodiment based on a refined and “civilized” capacity of sensibility, and that the legacies of sentimentalism still condition the present. More than a literary genre, sentimentalism is a philosophy that makes the capacity to feel according to socially-prescribed scripts paramount to knowledge acquisition, biocultural development, and legal or interpersonal recognition of vitality and humanity. Further, it is a disciplinary technology working through the medium of aesthetics to optimize the feeling capacities of sensible bodies toward desired (bio)political ends. It thus deploys affect as both the material and means of individual and/or collective transformation, usually towards an end envisioned as a moral, social, and/or physical improvement. Following an introduction that draws on feminist and queer theories of affect and critical race studies, my chapters show how sentimentalism attempts to didactically inculcate ideas and values in corporeal matter by stimulating feeling (emotional, sensory, neural). I suggest that sentimental texts intervened in the moral and material development of individuals by aiming to train emotional responses into the nervous system, while also delineating along racial lines which bodies were capable of such transformation. This study therefore contributes to the field by (1) providing a fresh approach to the sentimental mode that accounts for its scientific heritage, thus broadening discussions of sentimental politics, (2) revealing how the sentimental mode can play into racist ideologies despite its avowed good intentions, and (3) developing an intersectional and anti-racist reading practice that is as applicable to today as it is to the past and that confronts race even in the seeming absence of characters of multiple racial identities, thus challenging the unmarked status of whiteness.

Apr 7, 2023
– 1:00PM
226 Burrowes Bldg

Candidate for the PhD in French and Francophone Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Terraqueous Encounters: Queer and Trans Embodiment and Care in Francophone Literatures of the Indian Ocean and Oceania

All are welcome to attend!

Dissertation Committee:

Emmanuel Bruno Jean-François (Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Comparative Literature)

Bénédicte Monicat (Professor of French and Women’s Studies)

Fabienne Kanor (Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies)

Hil Malatino (Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Philosophy)

Julia Frengs (Associate Professor of French at University of Nebraska–Lincoln)


“Terraqueous Encounters” investigates representations of queer and trans embodiment and care practices in literatures by contemporary women writers from two Francophone archipelagic regions: the Mascarene Islands of the Indian Ocean and Francophone Oceania. More specifically, the project focuses on questions of trans embodiment, narrative genre and representational ethics, and queer intimacy as ways to demonstrate how ecologically-conscious literary characters affirm new definitions of the gendered body and map networks of mutual care. Ultimately, the study argues that Indian Ocean and Oceanian fictions become the sites in which competing knowledges of the body, gender, and communal care strike a productive chord in their dissonance. I argue that these opposing distinctions break down in contemporary fictions, creating more inclusive studies of identity. This project contributes to the retrieval of such knowledges of gender, the body, and care for communities who seek a balance between their irrefutable colonial and local inheritances.

Each chapter of the dissertation uses a terraqueous metaphor, i.e., a site where both land and water meet (coral reefs, tributaries, sandbars, and tidepools), for thinking through the representation of encounters between the corpus writers, their reading publics, their characters (human, plant, and animal), and the environments that surround them. Moreover, the project reaffirms the importance of archipelagic imaginaries in creating models for thinking of the well-being of all life when determining collective needs from the environment during our current era of climate crisis. With a particular attention to communal care, the study thus accounts for the ways in which queer and trans communities from archipelagic societies construct livable futures for a planet that has routinely grappled with narratives of disaster and ruin. As such, the project allows for a reinscription of island literatures, and literary imaginaries more generally, into the heart of queer and trans studies in the European and North American academies, where archival and social scientific conversations about non-normative genders, sexualities, and communities have recently garnered the majority of attention. Ultimately, the project considers how the five women writers that make up the literary corpus—Ananda Devi (Mauritius), Déwé Gorodé (Kanaky/New Caledonia), Magali Nirina Marson (Madagascar), Chantal T. Spitz (Te Ao Mā’ohi/French Polynesia), and Titaua Peu (Te Ao Mā’ohi/French Polynesia)—provide new vocabularies for queer and trans resilience in their communities. This responds to calls in queer/trans studies for imagining spatial scales for queerness/transness beyond the transnational in favor of the local, the regional, etc. Given that archipelagos are in constant volcanic development and motion, no boundaries are stable and gendered futures are abundant and overflowing with possibility. This methodology intervenes expressly in Francophone Studies and other area studies disciplines by favoring peripheral spaces historically deemed minor and that are precluded from major centers of knowledge production.

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Apr 5, 2023
– 3:30PM
226 Burrowes Bldg

Propaganda, across geographic and historical time periods, remains of utmost relevance, especially today given how progandist mechanisms have been amplified by new technologies and polarizing rhetoric. Colonial propaganda fostered a sentiment of proximity and made the Empire familiar. Iconographic materials deserve additional scrutiny and can improve our understanding as to how generations of colonizing and colonized subjects were impregnated with these imaginaries. The fundamental questions of our time include restitution, reparation, historical accountability and responsibility, and the challenges and issues that come with renegotiations of memory, and the complex process of confronting revisionist arguments and systemic racism. The most visible examples have taken place in the public space and involved the damaging, destruction, defacing, removing, and toppling of public monuments, memorials, and statues. To this end, a close examination and decoding of these imaginaries becomes essential in order to understand the historical matrix and how it was instrumentalized to legitimize colonialism. This visual culture functions according to prescribed codes and signifiers designed to seduce and inspire, promote overseas investment interests, while simultaneously obfuscating distant wars, revolts, and uprisings. Colonial history continues to be distorted and instrumentalized. We are the heirs of these images, they are ingrained in culture and collective memory, have shaped mindsets, and need to be examined and confronted so that their unprecedented power of fascination and influence will no longer haunt us.

Dominic Thomas holds the Madeleine Letessier Chair in French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies. He is an elected member of the Academy of Europe and the Global Diplomacy Lab, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and Associate Member of the Centre of International History and Political Studies of Globalization at the University of Lausanne. He was awarded the Gutenberg prize in 2022 and holds the Gutenberg Research Chair (2022-2024) in “Ecology and Propaganda” at the University of Strasbourg. He has held fellowships, residencies, and visiting professorships in Australia, France, Germany, Mali, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and provides expert evaluations to international learned and professional societies. Professor Thomas’ research brings multiple fields into conversation, including literary studies and African and European Studies, and in such areas as globalization, censorship, propaganda, immigration, identity, museology, racism, human rights, and environmental studies. He regularly contributes op-eds, and has provided expert analysis as CNN’s European Affairs Commentator since 2016 on European elections, Brexit, the conflict in Ukraine, the European Union, NATO, the G7 meetings, and terrorism. He is author, co-author, editor or co-editor of numerous works including, most recently, Museums in Postcolonial Europe (2012), Africa and France (2013), Afroeuropean Cartographies (2014), Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution (2014), The Invention of Race (2014), Vers la guerre des identités (2016), The Colonial Legacy in France (2017), Sexe, race et colonies (2018), Sexualités, identités, et corps colonisés (2019), Visualizing Empire (2021), Colonisation & Propagande (2022), and Histoire globale de la France coloniale (2022). He edits the Global African Voices series at Indiana University Press that focuses on translations of African literature into English and has translated novels by Sony Labou Tansi, Alain Mabanckou, Emmanuel Dongala, and Abdourahman Waberi.

Mar 22, 2023
– 8:30PM
158 Willard Bldg

Come learn about the French major and minor! Meet faculty, instructors, advisers, and other students and learning about department initiatives, new courses, and study abroad. Door prizes and free pizza!