Associate Department Head
Ph.D. Duke University Romance Studies (French) 2002
M.A. Duke University Romance Studies (French) 1997
M.A. Université Laval (History) 1995
Areas of Expertise
19th century French literature and history, social theory, urban & visual culture, popular forms of commercial culture.
My first book, The Elements of Mass Society: Paris and the Life of Large Numbers, 1830-1851, explores the early stages of mass culture with a view to identifying some of its leading characteristics just as they were in the process of crystallizing. In contrast to top-down approaches that have highlighted technology, class politics or consumption, I shift the emphasis back to the problem of experience and the way it is shaped by and responded to confrontations with scale in consumption, leisure, and technology. While Parisians were forced to contend with increasing levels of change in the first half of the century, we learn that they propelled that change as much as they endured it. The book asks how and why people invested in practices that made mass society possible in the first place. Ultimately, it turns out that many of these practices can be understood as more or less conscious strategies of cultural adaptation, as efforts to wrestle existential coherence from within the kaleidoscopic transformations that increasingly defined urban life.
I have also recently published on the commercialization of history in nineteenth-century culture; on the omnibus, the first mass transit system in a world city and its impact on reshaping urban temporality; on realist modes as the virtualization of everyday life; and on vaudeville as prototype of the modern situation comedy; and on the development of a integrated multi-modal media system in Paris between 1830-1848.
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