Howard L. Willett Professor in Romance Languages and Literature, History of Culture, and the College; REMS Graduate Adviser
(On leave autumn 2015 & winter 2016)
Office: 
Wieboldt 410
Phone Number: 
773.834.0354
Email: 
Education: 

Ph.D. in French, University of California, Davis (1984).

Program(s): French, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (REMS)

Born in France, I was educated in my native country (Political Economy and Sociology) and in the USA (French literature). I have been at the University of Chicago since 1984 and held visiting positions in departments of Literature, History, and Philosophy at Harvard University, Université Paris-Sorbonne, Université Lyon 3, Université Bordeaux 3, École des Chartes, Centre Supérieur de la Renaissance (Tours), and the Collège International de Philosophie (Paris).

Trained as a Sociologist in France, I became interested in the Sociology of Literature and historical approaches to literature when I arrived in California in 1980. My approach to literature is mainly contextual and interdisciplinary. During the last fifteen years my research has focused on Montaigne and the history of ideas in France  during the sixteenth century. My work intersects with sociology, history and philosophy. I am the general editor of Montaigne Studies, a journal published at the University of Chicago since 1988.

My teaching interests are Montaigne, Rabelais, sociological and historical approaches to the French Renaissance, Early Modern economic theories, nineteenth-century literature and philosophy, sociology of literature and culture. I also direct the European Civilization Core program at the University of Chicago Center in Paris.

Desan CV

 

Selected Publications (Books)

  • Naissance de la méthode: Machiavel, La Ramée, Bodin, Montaigne, Descartes (Paris: A.-G. Nizet, 1987).
  • Literature and Social Practice, co-editor with Priscilla Ferguson and Wendy Griswold (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).
  • Humanism in Crisis: The Decline of the French Renaissance, editor (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991).
  • Les Commerces de Montaigne: le discours économique des Essais (Paris: A.-G. Nizet, 1992).
  • Penser l’Histoire à la Renaissance (Caen: Editions Paradigme, collection “L’Atelier de la Renaissance”, 1993).
  • L’Imaginaire économique de la Renaissance (Mont-de-Marsan: Editions Inter-Universitaires, collection “Littérature et Anthropologie”, 1993). New revised and enlarged edition (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2002).
  • Montaigne, les Cannibales et les Conquistadores (Paris: A.-G. Nizet, 1994).
  • Literary Objects: Flaubert, catalogue of an exhibit at the Smart Museum, Chicago (Chicago: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 1996).
  • Montaigne dans tous ses états (Paris-Fasano: Schena, 2001).
  • Montaigne politique, editor (Paris: H. Champion, 2006).
  • Dictionnaire de Michel de Montaigne, general editor and author of 91 articles (Paris: H. Champion, 2004, revised and enlarged edition 2007).
  • Portraits à l’essai: Iconographie de Montaigne (Paris: H. Champion, 2007).
  • “Dieu à nostre commerce et société”: Montaigne et la théologie, editor (Geneva: Droz, 2008).
  • Montaigne. Les formes du monde et de l’esprit (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2008).
  • Pensée morale et genres littéraires, co-editor with Jean-Charles Darmon (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2009). 
  • Bibliotheca Desaniana. Catalogue Montaigne (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2011).
  • Cités humanistes, cités politiques (1400-1600), co-editor with Élisabeth Crouzet-Pavan and Denis Crouzet (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2014).
  • Montaigne. Une biographie politique (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2014). English translation: Montaigne. A political Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016).
  • Scepticisme et pensée morale de Michel de Montaigne à Stanley Cavell, co-editor with Jean-Charles Darmon and Gianni Paganini (Paris: Hermann, 2016).
  • Le Texte en scène. Littérature, théâtre et théâtralité à la Renaissance, co-editor with Concetta Cavallini (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2016). ​
  • Montaigne à l'étranger: voyages avérés, possibles et imaginés, editor (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2016).
  • The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne, editor (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

 

Awards and Honors

  • Grand Prix de l'Académie française pour le Rayonnement de la langue et de la littérature françaises, 2015.
  • Prix Pierre-Georges Castex de littérature française de l'Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques (awarded for Montaigne, Une biographie politique), 2015.
  • Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, 2011.
  • Prix de l’Académie Française (awarded for the Dictionnaire de Montaigne), 2005.
  • Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite, 2004.
  • Médaille de Montaigne, given by the Université de Bordeaux (awarded for work on Montaigne), 1995.
  • Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, 1994.
  • Médaille de la ville de Bordeaux, in commemoration of the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Death of Montaigne (awarded for work on Montaigne), 1992.