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  • Professor, French and Francophone Studies
  • Chair, Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
  • French & Francophone Studies
  • International Film Studies
  • Modern & Classical Languages Literatures & Cultures
  • Social Theory
1031 Patterson Office Tower
Other Affiliations:

Jeffrey N. Peters

Research Interests:
Early modern literature and culture
literary and critical theory
poetics and rhetoric
Film Studies

Ph.D., University of Michigan


I specialize in the literature and culture of early modern – late Renaissance and seventeenth-century – France. In the broadest sense, my scholarship considers the nature of the literary as a property of knowledge. I am interested in the way our ability to know the world often seems to require us to turn away from the world in order to give it meaning. In an early modern poetic tradition that took its authority from Aristotle, our access to knowledge was said to be determined not by ordinary reality as that which is, but by the poetic as that which might be – not poetry as illusion or fiction, but poetry as a statement, or event, of the possible.

I am currently working on two books related to these questions. The first derives from and expands on a special double issue of the journal Romance Quarterly (68, 2 and 68, 3) on the topic of “Early Modern Clouds” which I co-edited in 2021 with Katharina N. Piechocki. This project considers the multiform relations that hold between clouds and the aesthetic and examines the ways clouds embody modes of depiction bound up with the expression of the ineffable or what we call the “poetics of meteorology."

The second book, tentatively titled Are Texts Alive? Humoralism and Literary Force in the Early Modern World, asks what happens when human beings are confronted with the recalcitrance of the material world, when presumably inert objects and things become animated with forces, trajectories, propensities, or tendencies of their own. The primary focus of this research is an early modern concept of literary textuality that derives from a broader preoccupation in Western humanism with an apparent animism of the material world in the form of the humors, the fluids and forces that were understood to circulate not only in the human body, but in the earth and cosmos themselves. Art itself, in the formulation of many early modern thinkers, seems to unfold with something akin to a cosmic wind in the sense that it may be recognized by way of its material effects while the cause of its formulations remain out of reach of our understanding.


Selected Publications:


The Written World: Space, Literature, and the Chorological Imagination in Early Modern France. Northwestern University Press, 2018. (Click for more information.)

Mapping Discord: Allegorical Cartography in Early Modern French Writing. University of Delaware Press, 2004. (Awarded the 2005 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies by the MLA: The Modern Language Association of America)

Representative articles

“Clouds, Style, and Poetic Generation in Descartes's Météores (1637)." Romance Quarterly 68, 3 (2021): 144-59.

“Posthumanist Asyndeton: Critique and Judgment in Early Modern Object Studies.” Exemplaria. Medieval, Early Modern, Theory 32, no. 2 (2020): 167-75.

"Of Lost Islands: Affect and the New in Montaigne." Montaigne Studies 30, 1-2 (March 2018): 55-68.

“Lucretius, Space, and Poetic Invention in Molière’s L’Ecole des femmes and La Critique de l'Ecole des femmes.” Le nouveau Moliériste (January 2017): 3-25.

“Orphée en devenir: image et invention dans les Fables de La Fontaine.” Littératures classiques 82 (2013): 187-200.

“Tautou’s Face.” PMLA 126, no. 4 (October 2011): 1042-60.

Recent Courses 

FR 103: Introduction to French Cinema
FR 225: French Film Noir
MCL 503: Film Theory
FR 609: Barthes, Theory, and the Seventeenth Century
FR 609: Poésie et poiesis à l'âge baroque