French and Francophone Studies Publications

Carl B. Cornell

Un aller simple, or Rewriting L’immoraliste in Reverse (2021)

This article situates Didier van Cauwelaert’s Un aller simple (1994) in a broader literary context by arguing that it is a “rewriting” of André Gide’s L’immoraliste (1902). The analysis, anchored in theoretical frameworks of Orientalism and postmodernism (including Jean-François Lyotard’s theory of “rewriting”), examines the texts’ shared themes of travel, illness, and the pursuit of personal authenticity. I contend that Un aller simple reverses within these themes the diegetic structure and the protagonists’ character development, linguistic strategies, and relationship to power structures of class and ethnicity. The rewriting found in Un aller simple creates subtle yet pervasive intertextuality with L’immoraliste.




Valérie M. Dionne

The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne (2017)

This new volume from Oxford University Press includes essays on “Montaigne on Virtue and Ethics” by Valérie M. Dionne (Associate Professor), “Montaigne’s Travel Journal” by François Rigolot (Meredith Howland Pyne Professor Emeritus), and “Montaigne on Language” by Katie Chenoweth (Assistant Professor).





Mouhamédoul A. Niang

Rêves d’adolescents en terre noire (2021)

Rêves d’adolescents en terre noire portrays four young characters, two of whom are siblings. Madièye, the older brother and main protagonist, dreams of and fights for the end of urban discrimination while his younger sibling, Malamine, celebrates the return to nature and farming. Living in a poorly planned neighborhood on the outskirts of an African city, Madièye abhors farming, which their dad uses to instill a strong work ethic in them; he does not necessarily need the harvest. The narrative plot depicts their divergent interests. The younger brother’s love for farming bears the fruit he expects, which is the opposite of his older sibling. The latter’s urban militancy and idyllic relationship with his girlfriend, Salie, the third character of the novel, are jeopardized by institutional corruption, state violence–Madièye is arrested and briefly sent to jail during his neighborhood’s protest against poor urban planning– and the traditional practice of arranged marriage through betrothal. Indeed, his girlfriend’s family had offered her in marriage to one of her cousins upon her birth. After a long stay in France, her cousin returns to marry her, much to Madièye’s surprise and dismay. The fourth character, Cheikh, is a friend of Madieye’s who lives in an upscale neighborhood of the same city. In contrast, Cheikh’s father sends him to a summer camp in a region called Sine-Saloum. While in the Sine-Saloum delta, he discovers its natural beauty and the rich cultural heritage of its peoples. He also learns about a facet of their precolonial history that highlights a unique power shared among different classes in precolonial Africa. Cheikh, who initially wished to spend his summer vacation enjoying the modern infrastructure of the capital city, finally appreciates a rustic lifestyle that attracts expats, the latter experiencing an authentic intercultural contact in places distant from urban areas. The owners of the camp where they stayed epitomize this intercultural encounter, as their marriage is an interracial one. Cheikh evolves to embrace environmental militancy when he decides to fight for the preservation of the baobab tree, a symbol of nationalism in Africa. In fact, his camping partner and new friend, Joachim, a Christian character, eventually paints a beautiful baobab and sends it to him as a friendly gesture days after they had parted ways at the end of their summer camp.

Rêves d’adolescents en terre noire denounces urban discrimination, institutional corruption and traditional violence while offering an escape to nature as an alternative, the love of which proves more fulfilling. It depicts the relative shattering of a loving relationship and a dream for spatial change in the context of Africa’s modernity. Yet this modernity cannot do away with a rural memory that is deeply ingrained in rustic farming, pastoralism, and a poetic tradition that lauds the miracles of nature alongside the heroism of the farmer. Celebrating rural pride against the distressing mediocrity of urban politics, it heralds the advent of nature conservancy and the need for civic engagement as a new form of militancy among the urban African youth.

L’écriture de l’espace dans les littératures africaine et créoliste (2020)

This book sheds light on the writing of space as an existential site as well as a reflection of identities in fictional works by Mongo Beti, Ahmadou Kourouma, Aminata Sow Fall, and Patrick Chamoiseau. It underscores the trope of spatial polarization, along with its modalities and outcomes. Such polarization takes place in the urban setting, as it is the case in Sow Fall and Chamoiseau’s novels. It also occurs within the nascent post-colonial African nation-state or in communities in which the clanic or ethnic discourse of identity takes precedence over nationalistic or progressist understanding of the self.  The latter paradigm comes forth in Kourouma and Beti’s fictional works, respectively. Niang’s book highlights a praxis of spatial representation grounded on a paradigmatic polarization that enables these authors to celebrate specific sociocultural practices as components of a given identity. However, the progressist characters depicted in these works strive to overlook, these celebrated pratices. A third space emerges from the spatial dichotomy these writers put on the literary stage. This third space becomes the medium through which they transcend such polarization. Whereas Kourouma uses this third space to celebrate linguistic hybridity in Les Soleils des indépendances, Chamoiseau and Sow Fall turn it into a site that fosters the poetics of reconciliation in Solibo Magnifique and L’appel des arènes, respectively. In the case of the Cameroonian writer, Beti, the third space by which he transcends any polarizing discourse around identity takes shape through the quest of a new existential and anonymous place.

Adrianna M. Paliyenko

Genius Envy: Women Shaping French Poetic History, 1801-1900 (2016)

In Genius Envy, Adrianna M. Paliyenko uncovers a forgotten history: the multiplicity and diversity of nineteenth-century French women’s poetic voices. Conservative critics of the time attributed the phenomenon of genius to masculinity and dismissed the work of female authors as “feminine literature.” Despite the efforts of leading thinkers, critics, and literary historians to erase women from the pages of literary history, Paliyenko shows how these female poets invigorated the debate about the origins of genius and garnered considerable recognition in their time for their creativity and bold aesthetic ideas.

This fresh account of French women poets’ contributions to literature probes the history of their critical reception. The result is an encounter with the texts of celebrated writers such as Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Anaïs Ségalas, Malvina Blanchecotte, Louisa Siefert, and Louise Ackermann. Glimpses at the different stages of each poet’s career show that these women explicitly challenged the notion of genius as gender specific, thus advocating for their rightful place in the canon.

A prodigious contribution to studies of nineteenth-century French poetry, Paliyenko’s book reexamines the reception of poetry by women within and beyond its original context. This balanced and comprehensive treatment of their work uncovers the multiple ways in which women poets sought to define their place in history.

Other recent publications may also be found on Professor Paliyenko’s personal website which can be accessed here.


Italian Studies Publications

Danila Cannamela

The Quiet Avant-Garde: Crepuscular Poetry and the Twilight of Modern Humanism

The blending of people and living machines is a central element in the futurist “reconstruction of the universe.” However, prior to the futurist break, a group of early-twentieth-century poets, later dubbed crepuscolari (crepusculars), had already begun an attack against the dominant cultural system, using their poetry as the locus in which useless little objects clashed with the traditional poetry of human greatness and stylistic perfection.

The Quiet Avant-Garde draws from a number of twenty-first-century theories – vital materialism, object-oriented ontology, and environmental humanities – as well as Bruno Latour’s criticism of modernity to illustrate how the crepuscular movement sabotaged the modern mindset and launched the counter-discourse of the Italian avant-garde by blurring the line dividing people from “things.” This liminal poetics, at the crossroad of tradition, modernism, and the avant-garde, acted as the initiator of the ethical and environmental transition from a universe subjected to humans to human-thing co-agency. This book proposes a contemporary reading of Italian twentieth-century movements and offers a foothold for scholars outside Italian studies to access authors who are still unexplored in North American literature.


Gianluca Rizzo

Poetry on Stage: The Theatre of the Italian Neo-Avant-Garde 

Poetry on Stage focuses on exchanges between the writers of the Italian neo-avant-garde with the actors, directors, and playwrights of the Nuovo Teatro. The book sheds light on a forgotten chapter of twentieth-century Italian literature, arguing that the theatre was the ideal incubator for stylistic and linguistic experiments and a means through which authors could establish direct contact with their audience and verify solutions to the practical and theoretical problems raised by their stances in politics and poetics. A robust analysis of a number of exemplary texts grounds these issues in the plays and poems produced at the time and connects them with the experimentations subsequently carried out by some of the same artists.

In-depth interviews with four of the most influential figures in the field – critic Valentina Valentini, actor and director Pippo Di Marca, author Giuliano Scabia, and the late poet Nanni Balestrini – conclude the volume, providing invaluable first-hand testimony that brings to life the people and controversies discussed.


“… a major contribution to this field of study.”

John Picchione, York University

“… meticulous research and outstanding archival work…”

Paolo Chirumbolo, Louisiana State University

“To read Gianluca Rizzo’s fascinating study of the theatre of the Italian neo-avant-garde is to be reminded of how much we still have to learn about key literary movements of the second half of the twentieth century”

Marjorie Perloff, Stanford University

 “Some books are good reads; others are such that you learn things you did not know. Still others reteach you things you thought you knew. Gianluca Rizzo’s Poetry on Stage belongs, undeniably, in the third category.

Luigi Ballerini, UCLA    


On the Fringe of the Neoavantgarde / Ai confini della Neoavanguardia, Palermo 1963- Los Angeles 2013

On October 17th 2013, a group of young scholars and writers gathered in Los Angeles to commemorate another meeting (a much more fateful one) that had taken place in Palermo fifty years earlier, on October 3rd 1963 to be exact, at the Hotel Zagarella and the Sala Scarlatti of the Conservatorio. Back then, the main attraction had been the Festival Internazionale della Musica Nuova, a long-established music festival that had brought to Sicily some of the most interesting experiments from all over the world. An investigation on the latest developments in contemporary literature, the organizers thought, would have made a nice addition to the events already planned: it was the beginning of the ‘avant-garde by wagon-lit,’ as Umberto Eco famously (and humorously) dubbed it. Fifty years later, and over ten thousand miles away, that same avant-garde is still inspiring a lively discussion, the end of the line being nowhere in sight.