Sixteenth-century French literature
My research and teaching in French Renaissance literature has explored the complex operation of literary languages and the ways that they both express and subvert what is often called authorial intention. Through close readings of a literature that is strikingly self-referential and self-conscious about problems that are linguistic, semantic, structural, aesthetic, and rhetorical as well, I have examined the nature and function of literary creation and sought to articulate how writing itself simultaneously embodies and displaces the writer's desire for mastery and totalization. My work on the autobiographical text, on the novel and short story, on religious poetry and on the lyric, and on political tracts in sixteenth-century France engages the main currents of Renaissance Humanism and contemporaneous intellectual, ideological, social, aesthetic, and political currents and is informed by modern poststructuralist theories of textuality and reading.
In addition to an early monograph on d'Aubignè's Les Tragiques which examined thematic, structural, and generic issues related to the writing of a Divine tragedy and Protestant Apocalypse, I have written two books on Montaigne's Essais. The first, entitled The Matter of My Book: Montaigne's Essais as the Book of the Self, was concerned with the author's preoccupation with language and the act of writing, and with books, and with his desire that life both generate his text and be its ultimate creation. In the second book, Montaigne's Unruly Brood: Textual Engendering and the Challenge to Paternal Authority, I analyzed the metaphor of the book as child to investigate questions of writing and reading and to explore the dynamic relation between textuality and gender and sexuality. In essays on Rabelais, Du Bellay, Marguerite de Navarre, La Boètie, Ronsard, Montaigne, and d'Aubignè I have pursued my interest in textuality and writing strategies. In a series of recent papers I have focused on the complex operation of secrets and secrecy to talk about poetic and narrative structure, and about problems of interpretation. My current research also includes articles on rhetoric and history in sixteenth-century French literary and political texts.
Montaigne's Unruly Brood. Textual Engendering and the Challenge to Paternal Authority. University of California Press (1996)
The Matter of My Book: Montaigne's "Essais" as the Book of the Self
The University of California Press, (1977).
The poetry of Inspiration. Agrippa d'Aubigne's Les Tragiques. University of North Carolina Press (1970).
"Leaky Vessels: Secrets of Narrative in the Heptamèron and the Chatelaine's Lament,"
"Rewriting Babel: History, Cultural Memory, and the Ruse of Metaphor in Du Bellay's Deffence et Illustration de la Langue Francoyse," in Mèlanges de littèrature française de la Renaissance offerts ý Raymond et Virginia La Charitè, edited by Gèrard Defaux and Jerry Nash.
"Death's Desire: Sensuality and Spirituality" in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptamèron."
MLN, vol. 116 (2001).
"Langue et Patrie: la contre - "deffence" du Quintil Horatian lyonnais," in Lyon et L'illustration de la langue française à la Renaissance. Ed. Geraro Defaux.
ENS Editions (2003).
"'Mais o bon dieu, que peut estre cela?' La Boètie's La Servitude volontaire and the Rhetoric of Political Perplexity," in Etienne de la Boètie. Sage révolutionnaire et poète périgourdin. Ed. Marcel Tetel.
"Monkey Business: Imitation and the Status of the text in Du Fail's Propos Rustiques," in Narrative Worlds: Essays on the Nouvelle in 15th and 16th Century France. Eds. David LaGuardia and Gary Ferguson. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2005.
"Rusing with the Law: Montaigne and the Ethics of Uncertainty," L'esprit createur, vol. 46 no. 1 Spring 2006.
Montaigne and the Theater of the Self: Self-representation and Self-exposure in the Essais. Mediaevalia, 28, 2, 2007.
"Prudence and the Ethics of Contingency in Montaigne's Essais," in Chance, Literature, and Culture in Early Modern France. Eds. Kathleen Wine and John Lyons. Ashgate Publishing, 2009.
"Mettre la theorique avant la pratique': Montaigne and the Practice of Theory," in Montaigne after Theory/Theory after Montaigne. Ed. Zahi Zalloua. University of Washington Press, 2009.
"Montaqigne's Essais: Why Writing Matters," Reader: Essays in Reader-oriented Theory,and Pedagogy. Winter, 2010.
"Sixteenth-century Margins," in The Cambridge History of French Literature. Eds. Wm.Burgwinkle, Nicholas Hammond, and Emma Wilson. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
"The Prologues: Rabelais on Writing and Reading," in Approaches to Teaching The Works of Francois Rabelais. Eds. Todd Reeser and Floyd Gray. Modern Language Association of America, 2011.