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Prof Seth Whidden

Fellow in French

Tutor for Undergraduates


As part of my undergraduate studies at Union College, I spent a term studying in France; the rest, as they say, is history. I took an MA from Ohio State and did my PhD at Brown, where I focused on nineteenth-century French poetry. After teaching in universities in Rhode Island and Missouri, I worked at Villanova for a dozen years before coming to Queen’s in 2016.

Following my education in non-selective state schools in the U.S., I pursued undergraduate and postgraduate study and taught at both private and public institutions before coming to Oxford. I welcome applications from excellent students from all corners of the globe and from all walks of life. I also share the University’s commitment to an inclusive environment, which ‘promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected.’


I teach French language and literature to all years of the French undergraduate course at Queen’s. In addition to translation from French into English and first-year grammar classes, I teach a range of topics of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French literature. I’m happy to supervise graduate work on nineteenth-century French literature, particularly in poetry.


Much of my research has focused on poetry, and on some poets in particular; the texts remain as fascinating to me as when I first discovered them as a student, and each reading reveals something new. My first book, Leaving Parnassus: The Lyric Subject in Verlaine and Rimbaud, considers Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine and their complex relationship with Parnassian poetry of the mid century; formal and thematic elements show how they simultaneously emulated and undermined the Parnassian model, ultimately surpassing it and paving the way for the innovations of the 1880s. In Authority in Crisis in French Literature, 1850–1880, my second book, a series of close readings shows how tensions from the Second Empire and the 1871 Paris Commune played out in theatre, poetry, and short stories, raising questions about authorship through literary collaboration, parody, destabilised poetic form, and narrative voice. I’ve also directed several collections of essays and produced critical editions and translations. As the editor of the scholarly journal Nineteenth-Century French Studies, I follow the ongoing scholarship in my field very closely, and I take great pleasure from working with colleagues and helping them get their best work to print. I have recently completed a biography of Rimbaud and continue to work on literature during the Second Empire and around the time of the Paris Commune, including Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Verlaine.


Arthur Rimbaud (Reaktion, 2018)

Authority in Crisis in French Literature, 1850-1880 (Ashgate, 2014)

(editor) Marie Krysinska, Poèmes choisis, suivis d’Études critiques (Presses de l’université de Saint-Étienne, 2013)

(editor) La Poésie jubilatoire: Rimbaud, Verlaine et l’Album zutique (Garnier, 2010)

(coeditor, with Adrianna M. Paliyenko and Gretchen Schultz) Marie Krysinska: Innovations poétiques, combats littéraires (Presses de l’université de Saint-Étienne, 2010)

(editor) Models of Collaboration in Nineteenth-Century French Literature: Several Authors, One Pen (Ashgate, 2009)

(coeditor, with Pierre-Marc de Biasi and Déborah Boltz) Paul Verlaine, Chair / Hombres (Textuel, 2009)

Leaving Parnassus: The Lyric Subject in Verlaine and Rimbaud (Rodopi, 2007)

(editor and translator, with Wallace Fowlie) Arthur Rimbaud, Complete Works, Selected Letters (Chicago, 2005)

(editor) Marie Krysinska, Rythmes pittoresques (Exeter, 2003)