Associate Professor of French Literature, and the College
(On Leave Autumn 2014)
Classics 119
Office Hours: 
Monday and Wednesday 8:30-10:30
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 experimental writing (both poetry and prose), the Oulipo group, representations of everyday life, and connections between literature and philosophy. 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. I am currently working on a book 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 trace a documentary impulse that runs through French literature from the late nineteenth century to the present. My book identifies the emergence of a poetics of the document that shapes literature’s relationship to visual representation, testimonial discourses, and autobiographical narrative.

I have published articles on Oulipo writers (Jacques Roubaud, Raymond Queneau, Harry Mathews), on experimental poetics in France and North America, on the contemporary French novel, and on philosophical approaches to literature (Clément Rosset, Jacques Rancière). My editorial work includes a special issue of L’Esprit créateur on “Forms of Formalism” (Summer 2008), and a forthcoming volume of essays on the borders of non-fiction in literature and film (Presses Universitaires de Rennes).

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 taught undergraduate and graduate seminars on history in the novel, the literary avant-garde, realism in the twentieth century, and autobiography.

James CV


Selected Publications

  • Constraining Chance: Georges Perec and the OulipoEvanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2009.
  • Editor: “Forms of Formalism,” special issue of L’Esprit créateur 48.2 (Summer 2008). 
  • Co-editor (with Christophe Reig): Frontières de la non-fiction: littérature, cinéma, arts. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes (forthcoming).
  • “Poem-Walking: The Survival of Paris in Jacques Roubaud’s La Forme d’une ville.” Modern Philology 111.1 (August 2013): 107–131.
  • “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 Recent Courses

  • Philosophy and the Poetics of Presence in Postwar France (with Mark Payne, Classics)
  • The Literary Avant-Garde in France
  • Realism and its Returns in Twentieth-Century France
  • Introduction to Twentieth-Century French Literature
  • Seeing/Writing the Everyday in Twentieth-Century France (with Jennifer Wild, Cinema and Media Studies)
  • Human Being and Citizen