Core Faculty

Jennifer Tamas-Le Menthéour

Jennifer Tamas

Assistant Professor of French


Office: AB 4178, CAC

Office Hours:

Phone: (848) 932-3794



Licence, Maîtrise, DEA, Université Paris IV Sorbonne
Agrégation et CAPES de Lettres Modernes (concours externes)
Doctorat, Paris IV Sorbonne
PhD at Stanford University

Fields of Research:

Theater (from the Antiquity to the 21st century) and Performance Theory
Focus on Racine and Early Modern Theater
Ghosts and Mourning in Old Regime
Eloquence of silence
Rhetoric of Human Rights
Motherhood and Childhood in Old Regime

I left France in 2006 after I passed the concours to become a professor of Literature (CAPES and Agrégation de Lettres Modernes). I was granted a Fulbright fellowship to study in the USA. I now hold a PhD from Stanford University (2013). My dissertation [A Revolution in Rhetoric: Claiming the Authority to Speak in Early Modern France (1643-1793)], explored the intersection between politic, religious and theatrical texts through the lens of “declaration.” I also hold a PhD in Literature and Stylistics from Paris IV Sorbonne (2012) [Dire et ne pas dire. Du silence éloquent à l’énonciation tragique des déclarations d’amour chez Racine]. This study focused on the implications of the unsaid in Racine’s dramaturgy.

My teaching interests range from the Old Regime to the French Revolution and explore the boundaries between passions and politics. I published numerous articles on passions and theater. I am also interested in the linguistic power of silence. I co-directed with Hélène Bilis a volume entitled L’Éloquence du silence: dramaturgie du non-dit sur la scène théâtrale des 17e et 18e siècles (Classiques Garnier, 2014). This volume investigates the paradoxical question of how silence makes itself heard on the theatrical stage.

I recently published a monography on Racine (Le Silence trahi. Racine et la déclaration tragique, Genève, Droz, 2018). Whether it results from a deliberate strategy or an inability to speak, silence is core to political ambitions, codes of civility, theatrical bienséances as well as religious practices. It represents the betrayal of an intention that needs to be clarified and that feeds the spectator’s interest. My study argues that Racinian tragedies represent the fight against an unbearable confession. Long hidden, concealed, unrevealed, it has devastating effects once it is unveiled. Drawing on this permanent tension between silence and declaration, Racine’s dramaturgy undermines the beautiful structure of Aristotelian poetics and imposes a new vision of the tragic. Action does not rely on speech anymore but derives from silences, which, far from suspending it, revive and complicate it. Therefore, Pythia and almighty gods are unessential to doom humanity, who has still the freedom to speak or to remain silent.

I am currently working on two projects. I am finishing an essay (L’Amour orphelin ou l’impossible declaration) that examines how the abandoned child confronts a beloved mother who died but still embodies a figure of authority. Looking at emblematic figures of mothers throughout literature, I ask what rhetorical space is to be found for the child.

I also just started a new book project entitled In Spectral Company: Impossible Mourning in Early Modern France. Looking at ghosts and the process of mourning in 17th century, I explore traumatic survivals as well as the notion of separation to understand how the relationship to death shaped mentalities at that time. This book hopes to make a significant contribution to the history of women and of religious beliefs in Old Regime France.

Books (click on image for details):





Le Silence trahi. Racine ou la déclaration tragique, Genève, Droz, 2018

Co-Authored and Co-edited Volumes

L’Éloquence du silence: dramaturgie du non-dit sur la scène théâtrale des XVIIe et XVIIIesiècles, Hélène Bilis and Jennifer Tamas (eds.), (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2014)

Madame de Sévigné: les Lettres de 1671, Frédéric Calas, Nathalie Freidel, Cécile Lignereux, Jennifer Tamas (Paris: Nathan, 2012)


L’Amour orphelin: l’impossible déclaration (Essay)

In Spectral Company: Impossible Mourning in Early Modern France (Book Project)


“Overcoming the Shadow: Andromaque’s Ambiguous Triumph”, in Nick Hammond and Joseph Harris, Racine’s Andromaque: Absences and Displacements, Leiden, Brill, 2019 (Forthcoming)

“Dire et ne pas dire l’amour: formes discursives et effets pragmatiques des aveux dans Mithridate de Racine,” in Mathilde Vallespir and Roselyne de Villeneuve (eds.), (Paris: Presses Universitaires Paris-Sorbonne, 2010), 119-142

“La déclaration d’amour chez Racine: un discours emphatique qui oscille entre épanchement et brièveté,” in Mathilde Levesque and Olivier Pédeflous (eds.), L’Emphase: entre copia et brevitas, XVIe et XVIIe siècles, (Paris: Presses Universitaires Paris-Sorbonne, 2010), 85-98


‘‘L’art de défaillir: les effets pathétiques de la didascalie racinienne” in Europe, special issue on Racine, Tristan Alonge and Alain Génetiot (eds) 2019 (Forthcoming)

‘‘Monstres raciniens et compassion malséante”, in Gilles Declercq, Revue d’Histoire du théâtre, “Bienséances et Poétique théâtrale au dix-septième siècle en France”, 2019 (Forthcoming)

“Silence to Kill: Racine’s Lessons on Communication Strategies,” in “Teaching Neoclassical Tragedy,” Hélène Bilis and Ellen McClure (eds.), MLA Options for Teaching, 2019 (Forthcoming)

"Cœur de renard: la politique incestueuse de Créon dans La Thébaïde”, Papers on French Seventeenth Century Studies, vol XLIV, n°87, 2017, 231-245.

‘‘‘Je demeurai longtemps errant dans Césarée’. Méandres du moi et fixité du lieu dans Bérénice de Racine,” in  L’errance au XVIIe  siècle (ed. Lucie Desjardins, Marie-Christine Pioffet, Roxanne Roy), Biblio 17, vol. 216, 2017, 209-223.

‘‘‘Est-ce un malheur si grand que de cesser de vivre?’ Le spectacle du suicide dans la tragédie racinienne,” European Drama and Performance Studies, n°7, 2016-2, 89-103

“La mort orpheline: le suicide des mères chez Racine,” Papers on French Seventeenth Century Studies, vol. XLII, n°83, 2015, 301-312

“De l’alcôve à la tribune: Olympe de Gouges ou le désir d’agir,” Lumières, n°23, 2014, 151-166

“Racine: une dramaturgie de l’indicible,” European Drama and Performance Studies, n°2, 2014, 77-100

‘‘Valmont ou la sémiotique du corps au service d’une séditieuse séduction,’’ in Christian Delporte and Audrey Hermel (eds.), Corps et séduction, (Paris: Éditions et Librairie ancienne Nicolas Malais, 2014), 151-162

“L’imaginaire de la clôture à travers le cloître et la maison close au XVIIe siècle: la femme et la mise au ban de la société française,” La Licorne, n°94, 2010, 85-99

“La Médée d’Anouilh: entre drame intime et vision mythique d’une France blessée,” Revue du Paon d’Héra, n°5, 2009, 187-194


Undergraduate Courses: 

Aspects of French Literature

Faire sa cour: splendeur et misère des courtisan(e)s du Moyen-Âge à la Révolution française

We Need to Talk ! Theater and Polemics in Early-Modern France

The Only Way Out! From the Past to the Stage

Famille je vous hais! Crime et infamie sur la scène classique

Le Silence ou la mort: la scène d'aveu au thèâtre

Home, Bittersweet Home

Dangerous Liaisons. Love and Death Before the French Revolution (Middlebury College)

"Le Style à la lettre" (Institut d'Études Françaises d'Avignon):

Graduate Course:

Indicible Racine

Survivre à la Séparation? Deuil et fantômes à l'âge classique

Infamille: Crime et rédemption sur la scène tragique (Institut d'Études françaises d'Avignon)


Program Connections:

Program in Early Modern Studies