Janet L. Beizer

Fellow: Awarded 2016

Field of Study: European and Latin American Literature

Competition: US & Canada

Janet Beizer teaches French literature and cultural studies of the long nineteenth century as Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. After receiving her B.A. from Cornell University in French (summa cum laude) she spent a Fulbright year in Paris teaching English before going on to earn a Ph. D. from Yale (1981). Before joining the faculty at Harvard (2001) she taught at the University of Virginia.

Her Ventriloquized Bodies: Narratives of Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century France (Cornell University Press, 1994) won the MLA Scaglione Prize (1995); other books are Thinking through the Mothers: Reimagining Women’s Biographies (Cornell University Press, 2009); and Family Plots: Balzac’s Narrative Generations (Yale University Press, 1986). She has published broadly on the interweavings of literature and cultural history and the means by which story completes history; gender and representation; medical culture; travel and its compulsive double, fugue; and psychoanalytic poetics. Beizer’s work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Humanities Center, American Council of Learned Societies, American Philosophical Society, Ruth Landes Foundation, Australian National University Humanities Research Center, University of Canterbury - Christchurch, New Zealand, University of Virginia, and Harvard University.

The Guggenheim fellowship will support research on Beizer’s current book manuscript, The Harlequin Eaters: The Patchwork Imaginary of Nineteenth-Century Paris. The project takes off from the practice of cobbling together dinner scraps cleared from the plates of the wealthy to sell, re-plated as “harlequins,” to the poor. It follows how the alimentary harlequin and the eponymous Commedia dell’arte Harlequin character, similarly patchworked, evolve analogously in the nineteenth century, and together prepare modernism’s aesthetic of fragments, collage, and metamorphosis. The book finds its driving force in a conviction that the domestic arts and the intellectual crafts can and must cohabit, cross-fertilize, thrive, and join larger contemporary dialogues about hunger, consumption, waste, and recycling.