Jennifer Vanderheyden
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Assistant Professor of French

My research and teaching interests include Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century French Literature and esthetics, especially theories of theatrical and artistic representation (mimesis). My research focuses on the writings of Denis Diderot in the Eighteenth Century, and the Nineteenth Century novel. I have a doctorate in French Literature from the University of Washington, and a Master’s Degree in French Literature and Civilization from the University of Cincinnati. I also hold an undergraduate degree in Education from Otterbein College, as well as a Supervisor’s Certificate in secondary Foreign Language Education.

My approach to literary studies is multidisciplinary: philosophical, anthropological, artistic and psychoanalytical. In my book, The Function of the Dream and the Body in Diderot’s Works (June, 2004, Peter Lang), I argue that the body’s visual transmission of meaning, such as gestures and other nonverbal expressions, communicates more efficiently and spontaneously than the mediated spoken word. More specifically, I explore the capabilities of the body’s “painted” nonverbal communication to convey thought, especially the body as portrayed artistically in literature through the concept of the tableau vivant: in effect, a literary painting in which the narrator portrays the characters as if suspended in a state of oscillation between paralysis and movement. Because the subject of the tableau vivant resembles the subject of the dream in many aspects, I begin my book with an investigation of the possibility of analyzing the body’s representation based on Freud’s theories of dream interpretation. My second book project involves a detailed study of Diderot’s novel Les Bijoux indiscrets, a text often diminished by scholars as simply a frivolous satire of the court of Louis XV.

Finally, I very much enjoy teaching French and Francophone language, literature and culture, and I have extensive teaching experience at various universities. I also taught high school French and English before attending graduate school.

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