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Ari Blatt

Professor and Chair

Office Address

335 New Cabell Hall

Fall 2025 Office Hours



Ari Blatt's scholarship focuses on modern and contemporary French literature and culture. His first book, Pictures into Words, explores the impact of the visual and the visual arts on contemporary French fiction. His interest in the various connections that crop up between media also led him to co-edit an issue of Yale French Studies entitled “Writing and the Image Today” (2008). Other published work includes articles on television and literature; on “interphototextuality” in narrative, theory, the visual arts, and criticism; on manic fiction; on the suspension of movement in cinema; on topographic narratives; on photobooks; on writing about walking; and on looking at (and listening to) trees. In 2019 he published a co-edited collection of essays entitled France in Flux: Space, Territory, and Contemporary Culture. His latest book, The Topographic Imaginary, is about picturing place. It argues that the emergence of a "topographic turn" in contemporary French photography constitutes a new way of seeing and sensing France’s diverse national territory as much as it represents a visual laboratory through which to investigate how landscape “scapes” our understanding of French culture.

Prof. Blatt enjoys supervising undergraduate and graduate student research. He has directed over a dozen Distinguished Major Theses in the last decade on a range of topics that include: representations of diversity in contemporary Francophone bandes dessinées; the painterly aesthetics of Agnès Varda's cinema; recent forms of French anti-semitim; soccer and politics; and visions of women in the French Resistance. He has also directed a number of Ph.D. dissertations on subjects that span the modern and contemporary periods (for example, on contemporary counter-utopian fictions; on cutting-edge digital writing practices; on marginalized places and the precarious lives that occupy them; and on writing about walking in the city). He regularly teaches seminars that engage many of these themes, and more, and consistently strives to make his courses relevant beyond the classroom. Prof. Blatt firmly believes that as a faculty member he owes it to his students to be generous, compassionate, open minded and, occasionally, funny. 

Deeply committed to study abroad, Prof. Blatt created a two-week January Term seminar entitled "Making Paris Modern: A Secret History of the City of Light." He has taught this course--to hundreds of students at this point--on site and in Paris each year since 2011.

In addition to his research and teaching, he currently serves on the editorial boards for Image & Narrative, Contemporary French Civilization, Études francophones, and Symposium. Prof. Blatt has also served as Director of Graduate Studies in French (2022-2023, 2012-2014) and as Department Chair (2023-Present, 2014-2017).


Brandeis University, B.A.

University of Pennsylvania, M.A. and Ph.D.

Research Interests

Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century French Literature and Film; Word and Image Studies; History and Theory of Photography, and Contemporary Photography from France; Contemporary French Civilization and Culture.

Lately, Prof. Blatt has been developing a new interest in our experience of landscape, practices of deambulation, and the ways we attend to "nature" (or, more often, do not). He has also been thinking what it might look like to make the work we do in the humanities less coolly analytical and detached and, instead, more personal, relational, and, indeed, more human.


Mellon Faculty Fellow, University of Virginia, Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures (2020-2021)

Mead Endowment Honored Faculty, University of Virginia (2020-2021/Postponed until 2021-2022)

Buckner W. Clay Grant for Emerging Issues in the Global Humanities, University of Virginia, Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures (2014-2015)

University Teaching Fellowship, University of Virginia Teaching Resource Center (2010-2011)

Sesquicentennial Fellowship, University of Virginia (2009-2010, 2017-2018)

Summer Stipend, University of Virginia, College of Arts and Sciences (2007, 2011, 2014, 2017)

Excellence in Diversity Fellowship, University of Virginia Teaching Resource Center (2006-2007)

Bourse Chateaubriand, Dissertation Grant for Research in France, Ambassade de France aux Etats-Unis, Washington, D.C. (2003-2004)

Bourse Jeanne Marandon, Dissertation Grant for Research in France, Société des Professeurs Français et Francophones d’Amérique, New York (2003-2004)

Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania (2002)

Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Graduate Students, University of Pennsylvania (2002)

Publications and Other Scholarly Activity


The Topographic Imaginary: Attending to Place in Contemporary French Photography (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2022).

Reviewed in Contemporary French Civilization, Source: Thinking Through Photography, L'Esprit créateur, Leonardo.

Pictures into Words: Images in Contemporary French Fiction (Lincoln, NE and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2012).

Reviewed in Criticism, The French Review, Acta Fabula, French Studies, Modern and Contemporary France, Choice, Image & Narrative, H-France Review.

Edited Book Volume

France in Flux: Space, Territory, and Contemporary Culture, ed. Ari J. Blatt and Edward Welch (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019).

Edited Journal Volume

Writing and the Image Today, ed. Jan Baetens and Ari J. Blatt, Yale French Studies 114 (Nov. 2008).

Articles and Book Chapters

“Reconnaissances aléatoires autour du Grand Paris avec Jean Rolin et Camille Fallet, ou pourquoi je suis fasciné par quelques représentations d’une route départementale dans le Val d’Oise,” Inventer/Inverser le Grand Paris (forthcoming online)

"Le photobook du paysage contemporain comme portrait de pays, ou comment la photographie française à aujourd'hui force d'art," Mémoires du livre/Studies in Book Culture 14:2. Special Issue on the "Portrait phototextuel de pays," eds. David Martens and Marta Caraion (Fall 2023): 1-23.

"Into the Woods," Contemporary French and Francophone Studies: Sites 25:2. Special Issue on the "Frontiers of Ecocriticism," ed. Lucas Holister (March 2021): 172-82.

"En Marche! Walking and Writing with Sylvain Tesson and François Garde," The French Review 93:3 (March 2020): 56-65.

"Arpenter le monde d'après." In Thierry Girard, Le monde d'après (La Madeleine: Éditions Light Motiv, 2019), 234-37.

"Picturing a Nation of Local Places in the Observatoire photographique du paysage and France(s) territoire liquide," France in Flux: Space, Territory, and Contemporary Culture, ed. Ari J. Blatt and Edward Welch (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019), 186-215.

“Traversing the Territoire,” Romanic Review 108 (January-November 2017): 277-92.

“Un territoire truffé de traces,” Nouvelles Francographies 5:1 (2015): 49-68.

“Détours en France: On the Road with Jean-Christophe Bailly and Raymond Depardon,” Contemporary French Civilization 39:2 (July 2014): 161-77. Also published as “Tours et détours en France: Sur la route avec Jean-Christophe Bailly et Raymond Depardon,” Portraits de pays illustrés: Un genre phototextuel, ed. Anne Reverseau (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2017), 275-92.

“Thinking Photography in Film, or The Suspended Cinema of Agnès Varda and Jean Eustache,” French Forum 36:2-3 (Spring/Fall 2011): 181-200.

“Tanguy Viel’s Manic Fictions,” Contemporary French and Francophone Studies: Sites 14:4 (September 2010): 373-380.

“Phototextuality: Photography, Literature, Criticism,” Visual Studies 24:2 (Sep. 2009): 108-21.

“The Interphototextual Dimension of Annie Ernaux and Marc Marie’s L’Usage de la photo,” Word & Image 25:1 (Jan.-Mar. 2009): 46-55.

 “The Revolution will be Televised, or Didier Daeninckx’s Cathode Fictions,” in “Writing and the Image Today,” Jan Baetens and Ari J. Blatt, eds. Yale French Studies 114 (Nov. 2008): 144-55.

“The Play’s the Thing: Marivaux and the Banlieue in Abdellatif Kechiche’s L’Esquive,” The French Review 81:3 (Feb. 2008): 34-45.

“Towards an Iconology of the Text: Art History and the Expanded Field in Claude Simon’s Triptyque,” Word & Image 22:1 (Jan.-Mar. 2006): 68-76.

“Remake: Appropriating Film in Tanguy Viel’s Cinéma,” Contemporary French and Francophone Studies: Sites 9:4 (Dec. 2005): 379-86.

Book Reviews

Reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Romanic Review, Esprit Créateur, Modern and Contemporary France, Transbordeur, Contemporary French Civilization, MLR, The French Review, and French Forum, among others.

Curated Exhibition

“Thierry Girard: L’intelligence du paysage/Intelligent Landscapes” University of Virginia, Department of French, February 16-May 18, 2015. A recap, which includes Prof. Blatt's introductory text in both French and English, can be found on the artist’s website: <>.  The exhibition was also featured in “L’oeil de la photograhie/The Eye of Photography: The Daily Magazine of Photography,” Monday, April 27, 2015: <>.

Representative Courses

Graduate Courses

Palimpsestic Culture: Remakes, Rewritings, Recyclings, and other Aesthetic Borrowings

Thinking the Visual/Writing the Image in Modern and Contemporary France

French Literature Now!

The Occupation and Its Ambiguous Legacies

Consumerism, Mass Culture, and the Spectacle in France (1945-2008)

The Contemporary Novel, or "Is French Literature Burning?"

Writing and Photography

Undergraduate Courses

Tour de France: The Power of Place in Contemporary French Culture

The Extreme Contemporary, or What the French are Reading Today

Literature of the Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-First-Centuries: Great Books

The Occupation and After

Masterpieces of French Cinema

Reflections of the Republic in Literature and Film

Text, Image, Culture

Students' Choice: The Goncourt Book Club (1-Credit Reading Group affiliated with the "Choix Goncourt USA" Literary Prize, sponsored by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S.)

From Ordinary to Extraordinary: How the Arts Transform Everyday Life (First Year Advising Seminar)

Making Paris Modern: A Secret History of the City of Light (J-Term Seminar in Paris)