Associate Professor of French Literature, and the College
Wieboldt 224
Office Hours: 
Tuesday 10:00-12:00 and by appointment
Phone Number: 

Ph.D., Columbia University, 2005.

Program(s): French

My research and teaching focus on twentieth- and twenty-first-century French literature, in particular the Oulipo group, representations of everyday life, contemporary nonfiction narrative, and connections between literature and philosophy. In general terms, my work aims to reconnect the experimental literature of the twentieth century to the “real life” concerns that it is often assumed to have abandoned, via a critical approach that emphasizes the collective and social meanings of literary forms. My first book, Constraining Chance: Georges Perec and the Oulipo (Northwestern University Press, 2009), offers a study of one the major figures of postwar French literature. I argue that Perec uses formal and semantic constraints both as a spur to literary inspiration and as a means of exploring the tension between chance and determinism, fate and human agency. 

My current book project is provisionally titled Writing With Facts: The Documentary Imagination in French Literature. Through a study of works that explore the boundary between fact and fiction, I identify the emergence of a poetics of the document that shapes literature’s relationship to visual representation, testimonial discourses, and autobiographical narrative. The realist emphasis on ordinary details becomes in the twentieth century a fascination with facts. 

My teaching has an important interdisciplinary component, relating literature to the visual arts and cinema (“Seeing/Writing the Everyday in Twentieth-Century France”), or connecting poetry to philosophy (“Philosophy and the Poetics of Presence in Postwar France”). In addition to introductory courses on modern and contemporary French literature, I have also taught undergraduate and graduate seminars on history in the novel, the literary avant-garde, realism in the twentieth century, and autobiography.

James CV

Books, Edited Volumes, Journal Issues

Selected Articles

  • “Poem-Walking: The Survival of Paris in Jacques Roubaud’s La Forme d’une ville.”Modern Philology 111.1 (August 2013): 107–131.
  • “After Fiction? Poetic Imagination in an Age of Facts.” Revue critique de fixxion française contemporaine 6 (2013). 
  • “Le fait divers aux frontières de la fiction: la rhétorique documentaire d’André Gide.”Gide à la frontière, Actes du colloque de Granville, Bulletin des Amis d’André Gide 177–78 (2013): 75–86.
  • “Poetic Form and the Crisis of Community: Revisiting Rancière’s Aesthetics.” In Thinking Poetry: Philosophical Approaches to Nineteenth-Century French Poetry. Ed. Joseph Acquisto. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 167–83.
  • “Nobody’s Animals: Language, Limits, and Forms of Life in Queneau and Roubaud.”Contemporary French & Francophone Studies: Sites 16.4 (2012): 487–495.
  • “Aleatory Poetics.” Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Fourth Edition. Ed. Roland Greene and Stephen Cushman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.
  • “Transatlantic Oulipo: Crossings and Crosscurrents.” Formules 16 (2012): 249–262.
  • “Beyond the Book: François Bon and the Digital Transition.” SubStance #125, 40.2 (2011): 37–51

Selected Courses

  • Realism and its Returns in Twentieth-Century France
  • Oulipo in Context
  • Philosophy and the Poetics of Presence in Postwar France (with Mark Payne, Classics)
  • The Literary Avant-Garde in France
  • Introduction to Twentieth-Century French Literature
  • Le roman et l’histoire (XIXe-XXe siècles). 
  • Seeing/Writing the Everyday in Twentieth-Century France (with Jennifer Wild, Cinema and Media Studies)
  • Human Being and Citizen