Philip Lewis

Professor Emeritus of French Literature


Philip Lewis joined the faculty of Romance Studies in the fall of 1968. A graduate of Davidson College, he received a Ph.D. in French Literature from Yale, where he was a Woodrow Wilson fellow and a Danforth fellow. He has subsequently received fellowships from the Cornell Society for the Humanities, the Camargo Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. After receiving academic tenure in 1974, he served as Department Chair for six years. Between 1976 and 1987–with a break in the middle to visit Berkeley as Professor of French–he served as Editor of Diacritics.

As a scholar, Lewis has published extensively on various aspects of 17th century French literature and on contemporary criticism. His book La Rochefoucauld: the Art of Abstraction, was published by Cornell Press in 1977; his book on Charles Perrault, Seeing through the Mother Goose Tales, was published by Stanford University Press in 1996; he edited the segments of the New History of French Literature (Harvard, 1992) that cover the baroque and neo-classicism, contributing the essay on Racine in that volume. Lewis has completed the major part of a study of the intersections of pagan and Christian mythology in the theater of Jean Racine. His long-term teaching interests have spanned tragic theater of the seventeenth century, comic theater of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the history of ideas in France.

In the summer of 1989 Lewis joined the administration of the College of Arts and Sciences as Senior Associate Dean. He held that post for six years while continuing to teach part-time in Romance Studies. From 1993 to 1996, he served on the Modern Language Association’s Special Committee on the Future of the Print Record. In 1995 he was appointed Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and was thus largely inactive in Romance Studies for the ensuing eight years. After his return to the department in 2004, he served as director of the French Studies Program and offered several new courses on twenty-first century France.

Phil has most recently worked on a book discussing the issues facing American higher education, especially in its research universities. Upon his retirement in early 2007, he was granted emeritus status in recognition of his many contributions to the intellectual life of the department. He and his wife, Catherine Porter, have moved to New York City, where Phil is a vice-president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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