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Kathleen Hart Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies

Kathleen Hart (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) discovered her enthusiasm for literary and cultural studies during a semester abroad. Her publications include Revolution and Women’s Autobiography in Nineteenth-Century France and, with Paul Fenouillet (SUNY New Paltz), a new French edition and English translation of George Sand’s Gabriel, an 1839 play that explores complexities of gender identity and expression. 

Professor Hart's current project, Animality in French Fiction, draws upon research in cognitive science and related fields to examine how and why various writers since the nineteenth century have sought to deny or come to terms with the notion of an animal-human continuum. See “Animal Humor and the Darwinian Absurd” (Contemporary French and Francophone Studies); Strangers to Ourselves: Animality and Theory of Mind in Honoré de Balzac’s ‘A Passion in the Desert’” (Style); "Animal Metaphors and Metaphorizing Animals: An Integrated Literary, Cognitive and Evolutionary Analysis of Making and Partaking of Stories" (with John H. Long, Jr. in Evolution: Education and Outreach), and "Animal Metaphors Revisited" (Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture).  She has published a translation of Benoît Duteurtre's essay "The Question of the Cow" for Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, is a contributor to the Literary Universals Project and regularly participates in the Annual Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquium, for which she organized a panel on ecocriticism. 

Formerly a piano performance major at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Prof. Hart incorporates French and Francophone music into courses at all levels, from the chanson réaliste to French New Pop to artists who sing in Creole. Her article, "Evolution, Romance and Ritual in Muriel Barbery's L'élégance du hérisson" (forthcoming, French Forum) addresses the role of music in existentialist fiction. She is the recipient of two grants from the Vassar-Williams-Mellon Consortium to develop web-based French-language exercises and teaching material using songs and has lectured on “Musicality in Translation,” the topic of a segment aired on NPR’s The Academic Minute.

Prof. Hart has taught for the Women’s Studies Program and the Environmental Studies program and has guest taught for the new multidisciplinary Global Nineteenth Century course.

  • BA, University of Florida; MA, University of California, Irvine; PhD, University of Pennsylvania
  • At Vassar since 1993


Research and Academic Interests

  • 19th, 20th and 21st century French and Francophone literatures and media
  • Translation
  • Word and Music Studies
  • Animal Studies
  • Self-fashioning (autobiography and related genres, manipulation of various media)
  • French Feminisms
  • Biocultural Interpretation (applying cognitive and evolutionary research to the study of literature, theory and culture)


  • FFS 280. The Secret Life of Music
  • FFS 290. Community-Engaged Learning
  • FFS 370. Stylistics and Translation


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Photo: Karl Rabe / Vassar College