Edward Lorraine Walter Collegiate Professor Emeritus of French
I'm a scholar of 18th- and 19th-century French literature and culture, and I've also published extensively in literary and cultural theory, concentrating on the forms and institutions of modern literature and their relations to science, technology, history, and society. I have forthcoming essays on the French nineteenth century’s reading of the eighteenth century and on the connections between Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and the revolution of 1848.
My last book was an essay on the state of literary studies in the economically, ecologically, and technologically transformed world of the turn of the millennium. Its central questions were whether, how, and why literary culture, increasingly seen as residual in an age of electronic and audiovisual culture, can serve as a resource for knowing and experiencing the world. My current (and nearly completed) book project, “Thinking in Real Time,” concerns the temporal situation of human thought in the age of digital communication and automation, when both humans and devices can perceive, cognize, and influence a vast range of processes as they are taking place. Offering a counterintuitive take on familiar concerns about the technological pressure to focus on the immediate present and the very short term, I try to defend the value of slow thinking by stressing its kinship, rather than its opposition, to adaptive or regulative interaction in real time.
I am also interested in the Spanish language, which I learned to speak in mid-career, and, despite my very imperfect knowledge of Portuguese, in the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector.
Recent and Selected Publications
The Noise of Culture: Literary Texts in a World of Information. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
Literary Culture in a World Transformed: A Future for the Humanities. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
"Come Rain or Shine." SubStance, no. 100 (2003): 50-53.
Recent graduate courses taught:
Balzac and Flaubert
Enlightenment and its Discontents
Theory for the 21st Century
Enlightenment in Context, Then and Now
Recent undergraduate courses taught:
First-Year Seminar: Reading in Real Time
Seminar in Practical French Translation
Critical Fictions, Critical Writing
- 18th- & 19th-Century French Literature
- Literary Theory
- Contemporary Literature
- Relations of Culture, Science, & Technology