Faith E. Beasley

Academic Appointments

Professor of French

My work as a scholar and a teacher focused first on resurrecting the works and voices of French women writers primarily from the early modern period, a key period of French and western civilization, and putting these works and voices in dialogue with those of their contemporaries and situating them in their literary and historical context.  I then moved to interrogating the effect women's actions had on the cultural field in general, and to analyzing how and why the historical record has been constructed to erase this influence.  Currently my work interrogates France's engagement with the world, in particular India, during the early modern period.  In my most recent book, Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal:  François Bernier, Marguerite de La Sablière, and Enlightening Conversations in Seventeenth-Century France,  I examine the effect early encounters with India had on French literature, culture, and the history of ideas.  I locate the dissemination of the concept of India in salon culture, and explore how one salon served as the focal point for the encounter between France and India during France’s Grand Siècle and the effect of this encounter on early Enlightenment thought, material culture, and literature. I am working to revive the conversations of the past, and include these conversations often erased from the official historical record, in order to restore their influence to the history of ideas.   

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            My work cuts across the traditional disciplinary boundaries of history and literature, although I consider myself first and foremost a literary critic who also specializes in the history of ideas.  I analyze how texts, historical and literary, represent a reality. I analyze how culture takes shape discursively. 

In addition to my scholarly monographs and articles, I have produced a number of works dedicated to how we teach the early modern period.  I argue in particular that women writers should not be either taught or examined as a separate category but rather as integral components of the Republic of Letters in general.  I edited Options for Teaching Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century French Women Writers (MLA 2011) and co-edited, with Katherine Ann Jensen, Approaches to Teaching The Princess of Clèves (MLA 1998). I served as the editor of Cahiers du dix-septième for almost a decade. 

In addition to teaching and research, I have directed foreign study programs in France and India and organized a number of international conferences.  I have held a variety of positions in organizations such as the Modern Language Association, most recently being appointed to the Editorial committee of PMLA, the North American Society of Seventeenth-Century French Literature, and SE-17, (past president of each), Women in French, and lectured throughout the US and Europe.  I was the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in 2012-13 to support the research and writing of Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal.  

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179C Baker Library
HB 6087
French and Italian
Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
B.A. Mount Holyoke College
MA Princeton University
Ph.D. Princeton University

Selected Publications

Book:  Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal:  François Bernier, Marguerite de La Sablière and Enlightening Conversations in Seventeenth-Century France. Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 2018

article:  “Changing the Conversation:  Re-positioning the French Seventeenth-Century Salon,” in L’Esprit créateur, “Writing/Creating in the Feminine in Early Modern France (1500-1700),” ed. Colette Winn, Vol. 60, No. 1 (2020), pp. 34–46.

article:  “Decentering the European Imaginary:  A Baroque Taste for India,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Baroque.  Ed. John D. Lyons. Oxford:  Oxford UP, 2018.

article:  “Réseaux mondains et création littéraire,” in Lendemains:  Etudes comparées sur la France, volume titled “Du genre de la littérature” eds. Lieselotte Steinbrügge and Hendrik Schlieper. Vol 41, no. 162/163, January 2016, 137-49.

chapter:  “The Enchantements of Eloquence:” Salon Culture and the French Fairy Tale Tradition,” in Teaching Fairy Tales, ed. Nancy Canepa, Wayne State University Press, 2019.

Book chapter: “Accounting for Taste: Corneille and the Power of the Female Spectator” in Options for Teaching Neo-Classical French Tragedy.  Eds. Hélène Bilis and Ellen McClure.  New York:  MLA, 2021

Book chapter:  “Seventeenth-Century French Women Writers and the Novel: A Challenge to Literary History,” in The Cambridge History of the Novel in French.  Ed.  Adam Watt. Cambridge UP, 2021, pp. 95-112. 

Book Chapter: "De Grandes cultures se rencontrent: Conversations indiennes à l'époque classique" in French Global: Une nouvelle perspective sur l'histoire littéraire. Eds. Christie McDonald and Susan Suleiman. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2014.

Book Chapter: “Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal” in French Global: A New Approach to French Literary History , eds. C. McDonald and S. Suleiman, (2010).

Book: Options for Teaching Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century French Women Writers, (ed.) (2011)

Book: Salons, History, and the Creation of Seventeenth-Century France: Mastering Memory , (2006)

Book: Approaches to Teaching the Princess of Clèves , co-edited with K A Jensen, (1998).

Book: Revising Memory: Women’s Fiction and Memoirs in Seventeenth-Century France , (1990).

Article: "Salons and Innovation." Options for Teaching Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century French Women Writers, MLA 2011, pp. 64-75.

Article: "Altering the fabric of history: Women's participation in the classical age," Chapter on Seventeenth-Century France for A History of Women's Writing in France from the Middle Ages to the Present, ed. Sonya Stephens, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 64-83.

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Speaking engagements

“Feminist Criticism and Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves,” recording for the digital bilingual edition of La Princesse de Clèves, Lever Press, recorded April 2021

Talkback “In Conversation” for Molière in the Park’s performance of “pen/man/ship,” by Christina Anderson, April 18, 2021

“Fairy Tales:  The Power of Narrative and the Imagination”. Duke University, April, 2021

“Textes et Contextes:  Writing Conversation.”  “Autour du Livre.”  Silver Colloquium, Washington University.  October 16, 2020

“Creating Controversy:  The Provocative Ending of Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves.”  Seminar, Duke University, September 2, 2020

“Mythes de Versailles:  Influences indiennes.”  Seminar, Yale 11 November 2019.

“Bernier Re-contextualisé: Vers une autre vision de la rencontre entre L’Inde et la France au Grand Siècle” Keynote address for conference “Le Voyage en Inde à l’âge classique.”  Univ. Aix Marseille, France, October 18, 2019.

Works in progress

New French edition of Versailles Meets the Taj Mahal

Translation of François Bernier's travels to India

Biography of Marguerite de La Sablière