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Willa Z Silverman

Willa Z Silverman

Malvin E. and Lea P. Bank Professor of French and Jewish Studies

315 Burrowes Building
Office Phone: (814) 863-9660


  1. Ph.D., New York University, French Studies, 1988
  2. M.A.., New York University, French Studies, 1983
  3. B.A., Harvard University, History and Literature, 1981


My research focuses on the social and cultural history of France from approximately 1880 to 1914. My first book, The Notorious Life of Gyp: Right-Wing Anarchist in Fin-de-Siècle France, relies on biography as a privileged genre for research in interdisciplinary French Studies. Through an examination of the life of the prolific popular novelist, anti-Semitic propagandist, and salonnière, Gyp, I attempted to elucidate many of the social and political tensions in fin-de-siècle France. My discovery of a trove of correspondence between Gyp and her publishers led me to a new teaching and research field, book history and print culture studies. In my second book, The New Bibliopolis: French Book Collectors and the Culture of Print, 1880-1914, I take my work in book history in the direction of esthetics. Taking as a point of departure the cult-like love of luxury books by a new cadre of upper-bourgeois bibliophiles during a uniquely artistic (and materialistic) era, I analyze subjects as diverse as the relationship between book collecting and esthetic and cultural currents such as Symbolism, dandyism, and Art Nouveau; the gendered nature of book collecting; and the increased collaboration between authors and illustrators. My current book project is an edition of the unpublished private diaries of Henri Vever, a prominent Art Nouveau jeweler, Asian art collector, and Parisian man about town. I aim to reestablish Vever as an important figure in his own right and to rely on his life as a prism through which to view the myriad topics it illuminates in the history of the turn of the century: daily and private life; the 1900 Paris World's Fair; the milieu of Asian art collectors; reactions of private citizens to contemporary events such as the Dreyfus Affair.

Recent Courses

J ST/FR 197: France and the Holocaust in Film and Literature

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