Visualizing Experimental Psychology: Huysmans' Still Lives

A talk by Visiting Assistant Professor John D'Amico

Wednesday, April 15th | 4:15 pm | Via Zoom

For this reader, Huysmans’ signature moments take the shape of his finely rendered still lives – the most famous of which is from A Rebours: a tortoise found dead under the weight of its bejeweled shell. Other, more mundane examples also exist, their sensory vividness similarly due to their minute registration of “la marche des heures”: alongside leftovers, an empty bottle of red imprints upon a table cloth a blue circle; a velvet divan displays a faded pink resembling raspberry jam absorbed by a piece of bread. This talk explores what I consider to be a parallel phenomenon studied – and wrought with equal attention – by Huysmans in his novel En Rade: the errant cognition of its protagonist Jacques Marles. The subjective equivalent of the external tableaux detailed above is the character’s mental state, a congenital ennui that disrupts, and thus magnifies, “la marche de ses pensées.” His vagabond thought is further aggravated by the arrival of three dreams, which, prompting a quest for an explanation, lead him to invoke the writings of the German scientist Wilhelm Wundt, the founder of modern psychology. While the narrator casts him as the exemplar of reductive positivism – Wundt claimed that an extended foot during sleep elucidates the experience of an oneiric plunge – Huysmans creatively reworked his theories of mind into an imaginary of scientific technique to give his novel an experimental flavor. Wundt employed reaction times to objectify psychic phenomena, measuring the elapsed time between a sensation and its subjective apperception as a feeling. Huysmans flirts with these quantitative approaches to psychology in order to double down on subjectivity; blurring the line between external perception and internal experience, he tries his hand at portraying the transformative powers of consciousness, that most mercurial of tableaux and domain, par excellence, of quality.


Blaq Italiano: Exploring Culture, Race,

Identity, and Citizenship in Contemporary Italy

A talk by Director and Activist Fred Kuwornu

Thursday, November 7th | 7:00pm | Ahite Hall 206



"The Elephant in the Text"

A talk by Professor Thangam Ravindranathan

Tuesday, November 5th | 4:15pm | Callaway C202



Thangam Ravindranathan is Associate Professor in the Department of French Studies at Brown University. She received her PhD in Comparative/French Literature from the University of Pennsylvania and Université de Paris VIII (Vincennes-Saint-Denis). Her teaching and research interests are 20th- and 21st-century literature and criticism/theory; poetry; narratives of travel; the contemporary novel; the question of the animal; ecological perspectives. She is the author of Là où je ne suis pas: récits de dévoyage (Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 2012), a reflection on travel as a disappointed poetics and a dismantled epistemology in 20th century French literature (revisiting writings by Henri Michaux, Jean-Paul Sartre, Georges Perec, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Eric Chevillard and others). Other book projects, Donner le change (with Antoine Traisnel, Éditions Hermann, 2016) and Animals Missing (in progress), focus on animals in contemporary literary and critical thought.



Book Party: "Perishability Fatigue"

Conversation between Vincent Bruyère and Allan Stoekl

Thursday, October 17th | 4:30pm | Atwood Chemistry, Room 215



The Department of French and Italian invites you to attend the book celebration for Professor Bruyère’s book “Perishability Fatigue”. Please join us for a conversation between Professor Vincent Bruyère and Allan Stoekl, Professor Emeritus of French and Comparative Literature at Penn State University, on Thursday, October 17th at 4:30pm in Atwood Chemistry Center, Room 215.