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Patricia Ward

Photo of Patricia WardProfessor of French and Comparative Literature, Emerita
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Ph.D. University of Wisconsin

Research areas

The general direction of my intellectual interests was formed during my early years in Canada, particularly in secondary school up through grade 13, where my training included analysis, history, comparative approaches to culture, classical languages and French. In graduate school, a paper on Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris, completed for the novelist Paul West, became a thesis on Hugo’s medievalism. A Fulbright dissertation scholarship to Paris facilitated consultation of Hugo manuscripts and such scholars as Pierre Albouy and René Journet gave me assistance. Consequently, I began my career as a Hugo specialist, with a general interest in Romanticism. At the same time, I had been mentored by Gian N.G. Orsini in the history of criticism so that I also published and taught in the fields of criticism, theory, and comparative methodology.

Having held appointments at three institutions before coming to Vanderbilt, my responsibilities ranged widely in teaching and administration, but I continued to write in the fields of French and comparative literature. Teaching, intellectual curiosity, and personal growth during a long career have led me to work in eighteenth-century “pre-romanticism,” in theories of reading, in Baudelaire studies, and in issues relating generally to women, religion, and culture.

The chance discovery that a German translation of an emblem book including the poetry of the French Quietist Madame Guyon (d. 1717) had been published in Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century led me to a project of many years. This has been a comparative cultural history of the reading, reinterpretation, and cultural appropriation in America of the works of Madame Guyon and her defender François Fénelon. In retirement, I have continued to expand my interests in French- American cultural history, and, in a sense, to synthesize this personal intellectual history into a coherent whole.


Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century French Literature, Literary Criticism and Theory, Religion and Literature, French and American Cultural History, Women and Religion

Representative Publications:

Books and Monographs

  • Experimental Theology in America: Madame Guyon, Fénelon, and Their Readers. Waco: Baylor UP, 2009. Paperback edition, 2018.
  • Baudelaire and the Poetics of Modernity. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 2001. Edited volume.
  • Carnet bibliographique Victor Hugo. Œuvres et critiques (toutes langues) 1981-1983. Co-author Bernadette Lintz Murphy. Paris : Minard, Les Lettres modernes, 1992. Annotated bibliography.
  • Carnet bibliographique Victor Hugo. Œuvres et critiques (toutes langues) 1978-1980. Paris : Minard, Les Lettres modernes, 1985. Annotated bibliography.
  • Christian Women at Work. Co-author Martha Stout. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981. Paperback edition, 1984. Work for a general audience.
  • Joseph Joubert and the Critical Tradition. Platonism and Romanticism. Histoire des idées et critique littéraire, no. 189. Geneva: Editions Droz, 1980.
  • The Medievalism of Victor Hugo. Penn State Studies no. 39. University Park and London: Penn State Press, 1975.

Essays in Books

  • “Fénelon et la culture américaine. Lectures transformationnelles », pp. 359-370 in Lectures et Figures de Fénelon. Ed. Charles-Olivier Stiker-Métral and François Tremolières. Paris : Classiques Garnier, 2023.
  • « Continental Spirituality and British Protestant Readers,” pp. 50-71 in Heart Religion: Evangelical Piety in England and Ireland, 1690-1850. Ed. John Coffey. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016.
  • “Fénelon and Classical America,” pp. 171-191 in Fénelon in the Enlightenment: Traditions, Adaptations, and Variations. Ed. Christlph Schmitt-Maass, et al. Amsterdam-New York: Rodopi, 2014.
  • « L’invective politique de V. Hugo : serment, énoncé performatif », pp. 211-222 in Hugo et la langue, Colloque de Cérisy, août 2002. Ed. Florence Naugret et Guy Rosa. Paris : Editions Bréal, 2005.
  • « Hugo et le mythe de Mirabeau au 19e siècle, » pp. 335-346 In Hugo le fabuleux, Colloque de Cérisy. Ed. Jacques Seebacher. Paris : Seghers, 1985.


  • « Baudelaire et les neurosciences, Note bibliographique, » Bulletin baudelairien, 40 (nos. 1 and 2), 2005, 41-50. Co-author Julie A. Huntington.
  • « Ethics and Recent Literary Theory: The Reader as Moral Agent.” Religion and Literature, 22, nos. 2- 3 (Summer-Autumn 1990), 21-31.
  • “’An Affair of the Heart’: Ethics, Criticism, and the Teaching of Literature.” Christianity and Literature, 39 {Winter 1990), 181-91.
  • “Moral Ambiguities and the Crime Novels of P.D. James.” Christian Century, 101 (May 16, 1984, 519- 522. For a general audience.
  • “Toward a Theology of Reading.” The Reformed Journal, 33 (May 1983), 16-19. For a general audience.
  • “Encoding in the Texts of Literary Movements: Late European Romanticism.” Comparative Literature Studies, 18 (September 1981), 296-305.
  • “Joubert and Vico.” Revue de littérature comparée, 55, no. 218 (April-June, 1981), 226-231.
  • « Encoding in Romantic Descriptions of the Renaissance: Hugo and Michelet on the Sixteenth Century.” French Forum, 3 (May, 1978), 132-146.
  • “Joseph Joubert on Language and Style.” Symposium, 31 (Fall, 1977), 256-270.
  • “Simone Weil, or Radical Sainthood.” Christianity Today, 20 (January 2, 1976), 17-18. For a general audience.
  • “Anne Sexton’s Rowing Toward God.” Christianity Today, 20 (August 27, 1976), 18-19. For a general audience.
  • “Victor Hugo’s Creative Process in ‘Saison des Semailles’.” French Studies, 26 (October 1972), 421- 429.
  • “Nodier, Hugo, and the Concept of the Type Character.” The French Review, 45 (April, 1972), 944-953.
  • “Coleridge’s Critical Theory of the Symbol.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 7 (1966), 15-32.