DeJean, Joan 1948–
DeJean, Joan 1948–
(Joan Elizabeth DeJean)
PERSONAL: Born October 4, 1948. Education: Tulane University, B.A., 1969; attended Leningrad State University, 1970; Yale University, M.Phil., 1972, Ph. D., 1974.
ADDRESSES: Home—904 Clinton St., Philadelphia, PA 19107. Office—Department of Romance Languages, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
CAREER: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, assistant professor, 1974–78; Yale University, New Haven, CT, assistant professor, 1978–81; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, associate professor, 1981–85, professor, 1985–88, Andrew W. Mellon Professor, 1987–88; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, Trustee Professor of French, 1988–. Consultant to National Humanities Center, 1989.
MEMBER: North American Society for Seventeenth-Century French Literature (member of executive council, 1985–), Modern Language Association of America (chairperson of executive committee, Eighteenth-Century Division, 1982–83; member of executive council, 1988–), American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Academy of Literary Studies.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1977–78; Morse fellow, Yale University, 1980–81; Guggenheim fellow, 1987; Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies, Modern Language Association, 2003, for Reinvention of Obscenity: Sex, Lies, and Early Modern France.
Scarron's "Roman comique": A Comedy of the Novel, a Novel of Comedy, Peter Lang (Las Vegas, NV), 1977.
Libertine Strategies: Freedom and the Novel in Seventeenth-Century France, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 1981.
Literary Fortifications: Rousseau, Laclos, Sade, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1984.
Fictions of Sappho, 1546–1937, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1989.
(Editor, with Nancy K. Miller) Displacements: Women, Tradition, Literatures in French, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1991.
(Editor and author, with Margaret Waller, of introduction) Claure de Duras, Ourika: The Original French Text, Modern Language Association of America (New York, NY), 1994.
Ancients against Moderns: Culture Wars and the Making of a Fin de Siecle, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1997.
The Reinvention of Obscenity: Sex, Lies and Early Modern France, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.
Against Marriage: The Correspondence of la Grande Mademoiselle, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.
(Editor and author of introduction) Charles Perrault, The Story of the Marquise-Marquis de Banneville, translated by Steven Rendall, Modern Language Association (New York, NY), 2004.
The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, Free Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Coeditor of series "New Cultural Studies," University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989–. Contributor of articles and reviews to scholarly journals. Editor, Women's Writing in Seventeenth-Century France: L'Esprit createur, summer, 1983; associate editor, French Review, 1985–86; member of editorial board, A New History of French Literature, Harvard University Press, 1989.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Editing Molière's Dom Juan.
SIDELIGHTS: As both an author and an editor, Joan DeJean has campaigned for better recognition of female French novelists. Working as the coeditor, with Nancy K. Miller, of Displacements: Women, Tradition, Literatures in French, DeJean questions "why women have been neglected," stated Patricia M. Gathercole in the French Review, contending that Displacements "[stimulates readers] to reflect upon the situation and to remedy it now." "Displacements presents a collection of essays by fifteen noted scholars who discuss the problems of women's writings, its neglect by literary tradition, and how the accepted canon has omitted or displaced French works from anthologies," summarized Gathercole. The book discusses "the situation from the Middle Ages to the present, as well as francophone literature" and uses "a variety of critical approaches and … original interviews with contemporary writers," noted Gathercole, who praised the work for being "rich in ideas."
Published in the same year as Displacements, DeJean's Tender Geographies: Women and the Origins of the Novel in France "is a readable and challenging study of the women novelists of seventeenth-century France, the political implications of their work, and the way it has been treated by historians of French literature," described Peter France in the Times Literary Supplement, adding: "A good part of her book is devoted to restoring Scudery and many less well-known women novelists to the cannon from which they have been excluded over the past 200 years." Using "a highly original presentation," announced France, DeJean's "Tender Geographies establishes women's place in society, politics and literature, linking it with women's space within the salon, and regrettably and undeservedly, outside the various academies," observed Roseann Runte in the Dalhousie Review. "Her claims are … calculated to make the reader sit up," exclaimed France. The "bold and convincing revisionist history of the French novel," identified Michel Bissiere in French Review, "is based on analyses of selected novels and their critical reception in the light of historical events and contemporary legal documents."
Prior to Displacements and Tender Geographies, DeJean wrote Literary Fortifications: Rousseau, Laclos, Sade, a work which "throws a highly original light on the classical novel," according to Ann Demaitre in a Southern Humanities Review assessment. "DeJean … discuss[es] Emile and Julie, Les Liaisons dangereuses, and Les 120 Journees de Sodome as works which are all concerned with pedagogy," reported Vivienne Mylne in Modern Language Review. "Her intention," related Demaitre, "is to demonstrate that Vauban's, and Loius XIV's concept of a defensive/offensive system … pervaded the theoretical foundation of the Sun King's strategies which, marked by the 'classical concern for order and control,' provided the model for the French classical novel." The "well-written book" has passages which are "well argued" and "sound convincing," as well as a portion which "seems a little far-fetched," determined Demaitre. Mylne, who believed that throughout the book there are "weak-nesses of various kinds…. [one being] unjustified and sometimes inexplicable generalizations," declared that the book's "two chief weaknesses" to be "muddled thinking and unwarranted elaboration." However, Mylne also indicated the work contains some "clear and perceptive passages" as well as some "of a fascinating complexity." "When the author is actually analyzing her four texts," wrote Mylne, "she has a number of sound and sensible points to make…. It seems to be a pity that by making the Vauban fortress the organizing principle of her study, Joan DeJean has constrained her own freedom to exercise her critical skills and literary acumen." In New Statesman, Malcolm Imrie praised Literary Fortifications as "useful" and "brilliantly allusive."
DeJean's critical and analytical skills were again in evidence in 1997's Ancients Against Moderns: Culture Wars and the Making of a Fin de Siecle. In this publication, DeJean acts as "a nimble guide," recounted David Coward in the New York Times Book Review. Coward described: "She reconsiders the 'quarrel between the ancients and the moderns,' which split French cultural loyalties between 1687 and 1715, and, arguing that there is more rotation than revolution in cultural matters, draws a bold parallel with America's new 'culture wars.'" Ancients Against Moderns provides "fascinating reading," wrote Shirley Jones-Day in the Modern Language Review, for those interested in the cultural debate that resulted in the rise of the Moderns in France, and in turn the Enlightenment. The cultural debate led to the formation of a literary canon and modern journalism.
DeJean focuses on a different sector of society in Against Marriage: The Correspondence of La Grand Mademoiselle, which she edited and translated. The Grand Mademoiselle of the title was the rich Anne-Marie-Louise d'Orleans, duchesse de Montpensier, who was of royal blood and hence an important bargaining chip when it came to her family wanting to create an alliance through marriage. DeJean's contribution to the book were a biography and history, and the translation, in the third part of the book, of letters between the duchess and Francoise Bertaut de Motteville, which includes their exchange over her agreement to never marry, create a single way of life for herself, and refuse to be a pawn in a man's world. A writer for M2 Best Books called it "well-written, and laid out in a naturally progressive manner."
In The Reinvention of Obscenity: Sex, Lies, and Tabloids in Early Modern France, DeJean presents three case studies that influenced how the concept of obscenity came to be defined in seventeenth-century France. The first case study concerns the trial of Theophile de Viau, author of a salacious book of poetry that was attacked in the legal courts by an obsessed Jesuit. The second concerns the public outrage against the book L'Escole des filles, whose author was tried and hanged. The third chapter focuses on Moliere, whose works playfully toyed with obscene language in an attempt to elucidate semantics in a somewhat philosophical way. Throughout the text and the notes, DeJean makes references to how these factors have continued to impact culture up to the twenty-first century. James Grantham Turner, writing in Modern Philology, commented that "the whole argument is seductive and many of the details deeply perceptive." Turner concluded that "this dashing book should be required reading for anyone working in print culture and the history of sexuality."
DeJean's next book, The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, takes a more populist approach toward her subject expertise. The items of the book's title, DeJean hypothesizes, became the province of the French during the reign of King Louis XIV, who personally took a keen interest in creating luxury, ritual, and art out of routines and everyday objects and who adored his shoes as much as any latter-day city girl. As a by-product, fashion magazines sprang up to document the excesses of the court and newly arising cafe society gave trendsetters a place to see and be seen. The book compiles research in anecdotal form on items that are still the stuff of fashion magazines today: shoes, hairstyles, and couture. Barbara Jacobs of Booklist called the book a "delightfully educational perspective on snob appeal." Kathy Tewell, in a review for the School Library Journal, concluded that "Madison Avenue has nothing on 17th-century Paris."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2005, Barbara Jacobs, review of The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, p. 1881.
Choice, July, 1991, review of Fictions of Sappho, 1546–1937, p. 1750.
Comparative Literature, spring, 1991, review of Displacements: Women, Tradition, Literatures in French, p. 207.
Dalhousie Review, spring, 1992, Roseann Runte, review of Tender Geographies: Women and the Origins of the Novel in France, pp. 129-131.
Entertainment Weekly, July 8, 2005, Clarissa Cruz, review of The Essence of Style, p. 73.
L'Esprit, summer, 1986, review of Literary Fortifications, p. 104.
French Review, March, 1986, review of Literary Fortifications: Rousseau, Laclos, Sade, p. 617; December, 1992, Patricia M. Gathercole, review of Displacements, pp. 319-320; April, 1994, Michel Bissiere, review of Tender Geographies, pp. 865-886.
M2 Best Books, November 4, 2003, review of Against Marriage: The Correspondence of la Grande Mademoiselle.
Modern Language Review, January, 1987, Vivienne Mylne, review of Literary Fortifications, pp. 202-203; January, 1993, Jennifer Birkett, review of Displacements, pp. 212-215; July, 1998, Shirley Jones-Day, review of Ancients against Moderns: Culture Wars and the Making of a Fin de Siecle, p. 837.
Modern Philology, February, 2004, James Grantham Turner, review of The Reinvention of Obscenity: Sex, Lies, and Tabloids in Early Modern France, p. 423.
New Statesman, November 28, 1986, Malcolm Imrie, review of Literary Fortifications, p. 26.
New York Times Book Review, April 27, 1997, David Coward, review of Ancients against Moderns, p. 28.
School Library Journal, November, 2005, Kathy Tewell, review of The Essence of Style, p. 183.
Seventeenth-Century News, fall-winter, 1992, review of Fictions of Sappho, 1546–1937, pp. 71-73.
Society, November, 1999, Eleanor Kaufman, review of Ancients against Moderns, p. 111.
Southern Humanities Review, summer, 1986, Ann Demaitre, review of Literary Fortifications, p. 281.
Times Literary Supplement, August 31, 1990, Toril Moi, review of Fictions of Sappho, 1546–1937, p. 913; June 24, 1994, Peter France, review of Tender Geographies, p. 22.