Rae Beth Gordon

Professor Emeritus


Ph.D. French Literature, University of California, Los Angeles 1981

Areas of Expertise

19th-Century French Literature, Psychology, Hypnosis, Psychopathology and Psychophysiology; Early French Cinema; The Café-Concert in relation to hysteria and to anthropology.


My love of 19th-century French literature and passionate attachment to the visual arts resulted in the 1992 book, Ornament, Fantasy and Desire in 19th-Century French Literature, published by Princeton in 1992. It was in researching the psychology of perception for this book that a new and enduring fascination for 19th-century theories in psychology, physiology, and psychopathology took hold. These scientific fields were first explored in relation to literature (the first article in 1988) and then, beginning in 1989, in relation to the performing arts.

My next two books were devoted to analyzing the influence of science on popular entertainment:Why the French Love Jerry Lewis: From Cabaret to Early Cinema (Stanford 2001) and Dances with Darwin (Ashgate, 2009). A much-appreciated University of Connecticut Humanities Fellowship allowed me to work on the writing of this last book for the entire academic year of 2003-2004. The French translation of Why the French Love Jerry Lewis was published by Presses universitaires de Rennes in 2013 as De Charcot à Charlot : Mises en scène du corps pathologique.

After many memorable teaching experiences at UConn, I enjoyed a richly rewarding year in 2006-2007 as a visiting professor of French literature and culture at the University of Paris-8.

My recent research and publications on early French cinema focus on perceptual psychology and the special effect of the dissolve, as well as an on-going analysis of gesture in burlesque film style.

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