Romance Languages and Literatures

Philippe Desan

Howard L. Willett Professor in Romance Languages and Literature, History of Culture, and the College; French Graduate Adviser

Office: 

Wieboldt 410

Office Hours: 

By appt.

Phone Number: 

773.834.0354

Email: 

Education: 

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

Program(s): French and Francophone Studies, 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.

CV

Selected Publications (Books)

  • Montaigne: A Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017)
    Selected Reviews: 
    Times Literary Supplement
    The Los Angeles Review of Books
    The Dublin Review of Books
  • The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne, editor (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • Montaigne à l'étranger: voyages avérés, possibles et imaginés, editor (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2016).
  • Le Texte en scène. Littérature, théâtre et théâtralité à la Renaissance, co-editor with Concetta Cavallini (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2016). ​
  • Scepticisme et pensée morale de Michel de Montaigne à Stanley Cavell, co-editor with Jean-Charles Darmon and Gianni Paganini (Paris: Hermann, 2016).
  • Montaigne. Une biographie politique (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2014). English translation: Montaigne. A political Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016).
  • Cités humanistes, cités politiques (1400-1600), co-editor with Élisabeth Crouzet-Pavan and Denis Crouzet (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2014).
  • Bibliotheca Desaniana. Catalogue Montaigne (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2011).
  • Pensée morale et genres littéraires, co-editor with Jean-Charles Darmon (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2009).
  • Montaigne. Les formes du monde et de l’esprit (Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, 2008).
  • “Dieu à nostre commerce et société”: Montaigne et la théologie, editor (Geneva: Droz, 2008).
  • Portraits à l’essai: Iconographie de Montaigne (Paris: H. Champion, 2007).
  • Dictionnaire de Michel de Montaigne, general editor and author of 91 articles (Paris: H. Champion, 2004, revised and enlarged edition 2007).
  • Montaigne politique, editor (Paris: H. Champion, 2006).
  • Montaigne dans tous ses états (Paris-Fasano: Schena, 2001).
  • 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, les Cannibales et les Conquistadores (Paris: A.-G. Nizet, 1994).
  • 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).
  • Penser l’Histoire à la Renaissance (Caen: Editions Paradigme, collection “L’Atelier de la Renaissance”, 1993).
  • Les Commerces de Montaigne: le discours économique des Essais (Paris: A.-G. Nizet, 1992).
  • Humanism in Crisis: The Decline of the French Renaissance, editor (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991).
  • Literature and Social Practice, co-editor with Priscilla Ferguson and Wendy Griswold (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).Naissance de la méthode: Machiavel, La Ramée, Bodin, Montaigne, Descartes (Paris: A.-G. Nizet, 1987).

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.