Department of Modern Foreign Languages & Literatures

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New Faculty Spotlight: Anne-Hélène Miller

For the 2014-2015 academic year, MFLL welcomed its newest faculty member, Assistant Professor of French Anne-Hélène Miller. Prof. Miller comes to us from a faculty position at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, and she brings an exciting research and teaching agenda to the department.

Prof. Miller’s specialty is French literature from the medieval and Renaissance periods. Much of her work focuses on expanding the range of texts considered in research on the period. While much scholarship centers on elite writing, particularly the work of official, paid court poets, her aim is to incorporate more marginal voices. In many cases, these are contemporary writings that were not published until centuries later, if at all, so this research involves a good bit of archive and manuscript work.

Prof. Miller is currently working on developing this research into a book, tentatively titled The Literary Status of French and Cultural Boundaries in the Fourteenth Century. She is also working on the English edition of a text by the francophone diplomat and traveler Philippe de Mézières’ Dream-vision of the Old Pilgrim and developing a website on medieval maps that will complement this edition and increase its usefulness as a teaching tool.

She has also recently published an article on medieval Paris in the journal Viator. This article challenges much of conventional wisdom about the city at that time, which was frequently praised as a paradise, the “New Jerusalem.” However, Dr. Miller’s work shows that the city’s many social problems and the difficulties of life in this growing medieval city were also captured in many writings, including works by students who chronicled their experiences in Paris.

For Dr. Miller, teaching and research go hand in hand. She has taught a capstone course on Paris as a migrant city from the Middle Ages to today that focuses on writings by people who came to Paris from elsewhere. From Germans and Americans to Russians in the 19th century to North African immigrants today, Paris has always been a magnet for people from across the globe.

An important aim of her work, Miller says, is to challenge the conventional definition of what counts as French. This semester she is teaching a graduate course on the idea of France and Francophonia, and she says she wanted to show that “in the medieval times France did not exist as it is today.” She notes that “French” literature from this period predates the modern nation-state of France that we know today, but the two are commonly conflated.

She uses both canonical and lesser known texts, including from Francophone authors in England, Italy, and the Levant, and even French literature that was originally written in the Arabic script, to discuss a French literature less defined by national borders and disciplinary boundaries. She has used this approach to teach courses that include literature beyond French, including a course on medieval travel writings.

Dr. Miller will soon get the chance to devote more time to her book; she recently was awarded a fellowship from UT’s Humanities Center for 2015-2016, which will allow her to dedicate a full academic year to her research. She has also received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities to translate previously unavailable texts by Eustache Deschamps and the anonymous Moralized Ovid.

In addition to teaching and working on her research, Prof. Miller has been taking advantage of what Knoxville has to offer. She enjoys being outdoors, playing tennis, and swimming. “I love the proximity of the mountains,” she says of Knoxville. “I love that I can even see the mountains from my office.”



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