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Dr Macs Smith

Career Development Fellow in French


I grew up in Virginia just outside of Washington, DC. I studied French and English at the College of William and Mary and then did my Masters and PhD in French at Princeton University. At Princeton I was a member of l'Avant-Scène, a French-language acting troupe. My thesis, however, focused on Paris and I spent a year of my PhD at ENS-Ulm. I arrived at Queen’s in 2018 as a Junior Research Fellow and I’m now a Career Development Fellow in French.


I teach Modern French Literature (nineteenth century to the present) as well as translation into English.


I’m interested in the intersection of the body and media. My first book, Paris and the Parasite: Noise, Health, and Politics in the Media City (MIT Press, 2021), builds on work by the French philosopher Michel Serres. He draws attention to the four meanings of “parasite” in French: an uninvited guest, a harmful organism, a mooch, and noise or interference in communication. He argues that these four meanings are intertwined. I apply this idea to urbanism, asking who and what constitute the parasites of Paris. The city has been shaped by what I call anti-parasitic urbanism: the prioritization of cleanliness, order, efficiency and clarity. Through close readings of texts and practices that challenge the anti-parasitism of the city (including street art and parkour, protests and riots, literature and film), I argue for a radically different approach to urbanism and urban life.

My second book project, tentatively titled Staging Presence, examines how screen culture and new technologies are changing the conceptualization of the body in contemporary French theatre. I’m interested in how and why “being present” has come to be valorised, both in the theatre and in popular culture, and in what people actually mean by presence. Is it a media-technical condition? As in, am I more present for a play if there are no screens onstage? Or is it more to do with attention or intentionality or something else? Does the meaning of a theatrical performance change (both for the performers and spectators) if everyone is present for it? The project will look at theatrical performances, acting theory and pedagogy, neuroscience, and French philosophy (Levinas, Derrida, Baudrillard, Stiegler).


‘The Icon, the Exile: Dante in Contemporary Italian Street Art,' Dante Alive, edited by Simone Marchesi and Francesco Ciabattoni, forthcoming from Routledge, 2022.

Paris and the Parasite: Noise, Health, and Politics in the Media City. MIT Press, 2021.

‘Between Memory and Mobilization: The Graffiti and Street Art of the Paris Commune,’ Nineteenth-Century French Studies 49, no. 3 (2021): 238-257.

‘Le Groupe fait de/du bruit: communication et communauté dans Mort de quelqu’un de Jules Romains,’ Modern Language Notes, 134, no. 4 (2019): 764-782.

‘What Dies in the Street: Camus’s La Peste and Infected Networks,’ French Forum 41, no. 3 (2017): 192-207.