Peter Frei

picture of Peter  Frei

Assistant Professor of French
School of Humanities

Ph.D., University of Fribourg (Switzerland), 2012, French Literature


University of California, Irvine
205 Humanities Instructional Bldg.
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Early Modern and Modern French Literature, Renaissance Culture, the Body and its Representations, the Politics of Literature
Senior Lecturer and Researcher (maître-assistant) in Early Modern and Modern French Literature, University of Fribourg, 2013-2016

Lecturer in Medieval French Literature, University of Lausanne, Spring 2013
Research Abstract
Current Research/Book Project: "The Renaissance of Sartre: A Counter-History of Literary 'Engagement'

Since its formulation by Jean-Paul Sartre in the context of postwar France, the notion of 'engagement' – which considers the unveiling of the world’s injustices as the primary aim of literary writing – has become, in and outside France, the benchmark for discussing the political and social implications both of literature in particular and art in general. Early on, writers and artists have contested the philosopher’s politics of engagement by considering the literary or artistic form – and not the content of the work – to be the true means of engaging with the world. It is not about making political films, Jean-Luc Godard famously said, but to “politically make films”.
Sartre’s engagement and the responses it has provoked have justly been considered a reflection of and on the crisis of writing in postwar Europe and therefore anachronistic in dealing with works created before 1945. Yet the gesture he analyzes and the politicizing of literary and artistic form his critics have advocated open up a critical matrix through which past practices of the literary and artistic form come into question in their political impact and signification. It is in fact, to quote a key example, a dramatization of the tension between form and meaning that brings into play the political gesture of Thomas More’s seminal Utopia.
By studying modern renegotiations of the politics of literature, the goal of the project is to analyze in its theoretical and historical impact this critical matrix which situates the question of the political in the tension between signification and form and which can be read as the framework of the modernity which stretches from the 16th century to today’s debates on the meaning and social relevance of literature and art.

François Rabelais et le scandale de la modernité. Pour une herméneutique de l'obscène renaissant, Geneva, Droz, 2015 [since January 2018 available as open access PDF at: and]
Articles on French Renaissance Literature (selection):

“Le Silène de Rabelais: jeu et enjeux d’un contre-texte de la Renaissance”, In: Nelly Labère (ed.), Texte et contre-texte pour la période prémoderne, Bordeaux, Ausonius Editions, 2013, 157-165
“‘Ceci est mon corps’: enjeux littéraires d’une polémique religieuse à la Renaissance”, In: Alexander Schwarz, Catalina Schiltknecht and Barbara Wahlen (eds), Corps-Culture-Communication, Berne, Peter Lang, 2014, 525-534
“Publier le corps : les Blasons anatomiques de 1543 et la (re)présentation du corps à la Renaissance”, to be published in the proceedings of the conference Anatomie(s) d’une anatomie : nouvelles recherches sur les Blasons anatomiques du corps féminin (University of Fribourg, November 2015, and University of Picardie Jules Verne, March 2016)
Other Articles (selection):

“Passions du sujet. Passion simple d’Annie Ernaux et la question de l’engagement littéraire”, In: Thomas Hunkeler and Marc-Henry Soulet (eds.), Annie Ernaux. Se mettre en gage pour dire le monde, Geneva, MétisPresses, 2012, 195-208
“La modernité en procès: le Gilles de Rais de Georges Bataille”, Fabula. Revue d’études sur le conte populaire, 54:1/2, 2013, 17-29
“The Sopranos (1999-2007): l’ordre de la famille à l’aube du XXIe siècle”, to be published in the proceedings of the conference Regards croisés sur les relations de pouvoir dans la famille en Europe (University of Fribourg, April 2015)
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