Elena Russo

Elena Russo

Professor of French, Director of Undergraduate Studies, French, Study Abroad Officer, French

Contact Information

Research Interests: 17th- and 18th-century French literature; cultural and intellectual history of the Enlightenment; religious dissidences; sociability; the history of aesthetics; literary theory

Education: PhD, Princeton University

Elena Russo holds a Licence ès Lettres from the Université de Genève and a PhD from Princeton University. Her interests focus on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French literature, cultural and intellectual history of the Enlightenment, sociability, the history of aesthetics and criticism. Her books include Skeptical Selves: Empiricism and Modernity in the French Novel (1996); La Cour et la ville de la littérature classique aux Lumières (2002) and Styles of Enlightenment: Taste, Politics and Authorship in Eighteenth-Century France (2007). She is also interested in the seventeenth-century libertines and religious dissidence and has written on Giulio Cesare Vanini and Pierre Bayle. She is currently working on a book on  Diderot’s approach to posterity and the transmission of his complete works.


  • Rousseau, Citizenship and Exile
  • Cultures of Criticism from the Classics to Foucault
  • Diderot, Power and Representation
  • Writers Confront Time, Posterity and Survival


  • Style, Gender and Politics from Marie-Antoinette to the Burquini
  • Power and Resistance: Approaches to French Political Thought
  • Censorship in Language and Practice: from the Ancien Regime to Democracy
  • Libertins, Athées et Imposteurs

Elena Russo's books include Skeptical Selves: Empiricism and Modernity in the French Novel (1996); La Cour et la ville de la littérature classique aux Lumières (2002) and Styles of Enlightenment: Taste, Politics and Authorship in Eighteenth-Century France (2007).

Her current book project examines the ways in which authors see time as shaping and inflecting the reception and the value of their works. The general argument is that there is a strong relationship between models of transmission of aesthetic value and models of cultural, theological and biological "evolution." Among the authors featured in the book are: Denis Diderot, Voltaire, Charles Bonnet, Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, Pierre-Simon Ballanche.

Selection of Articles and Book Chapters

“How to Handle the Intolerant: The Education of Pierre Bayle,” Imagining Religious Toleration, 1600-1800, 2018

"On Giving and Taking Offense," Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 47 (Forum on Tolerance, Free Speech, and Civility from Voltaire to Charlie Hebdo), Eve Tavor Bannet and Roxann Wheeler eds., 2018

"Revisiting Le Monde des salons", Reviews in History, January 2017 (http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/2041)

“Resurgences of Nero In the Enlightenment,” The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Nero, Shadi Bartsch, Kirk Freudenburg, and Cedric Littlewood eds., Cambridge University Press, 2017, 305-317

"Revisiting Kechiche’s L’Esquive" Fiction and Film for French Historians

H-France Fiction and Film for French Historians, vol. 6, issue 1, October 2015“Marivaudages tragiques: le parallèle entre Marivaux et Racine,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, p. 97-108 (April 2014)

P_asia, persiflage, falsification: le Vanini de Voltaire," Romanic Review, 103.3-4, p. 527-552 (November 2013)

“Diderot Dentellière: la description des arts dans l’Encyclopédie,”  Modern Language Notes, vol. 126, issue 4, Sept. 2011, p. 853-868

“The Naked Philosophe and the Shameless Prussian: Diderot’s Portrait Sitting,” The Romanic Review, vol. 101, issue 4, December 2011, p. 70

“1966: Morning in Baltimore,” The Romanic Review, vol. 101, issue 1-2, January-March 2010, p. 167-190

“Slander and Glory in the Republic of Letters: Diderot and Seneca Confront Rousseau” Republics of Letters, May 2009, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (https://arcade.stanford.edu/rofl/slander-and-glory-republic-letters-diderot-and-seneca-confront-rousseau)

“The Burlesque Body in Diderot’s Les Bijoux indiscrets,” in The eighteenth-century body: art, history, literature, medicine, Angelica Goodden ed., Oxford, Peter Lang, 2003

“La coquette et le bel esprit: figures de l’auteur dans Le Spectateur français,” Revue Marivaux, Spring 2003

“The Youth of Moral Life: the Virtue of the Ancients from Montesquieu to Nietzsche,” Montesquieu and the Spirit of Modernity, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 2002: 09, 101-23.

“From Précieuse to mother figure: sentiment, authority and the eighteenth-century salonniere,” Studies On Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 2001: 12, 199-218

“A Discipline of Many Turns; Cultural Studies and Eighteenth-Century France,” Studies in Early Modern France, 2000: 6, 96-101 

“Monstrous Virtue: Montesquieu’s Considérations sur les Romains,” Romanic Review (2000): 90:3, p.333-351

“Libidinal Economy and Gender Trouble in Marivaux’s La fausse suivante,” Modern Language Notes, (2000): 15. 4, 690-713 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/3251312)

“Virtuous Economies: Modernity and Noble Expenditure from Montesquieu to Caillois,”

Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques (Summer 1999): 25: 2, 251-278

—reprinted in Postmodernism and the Enlightenment, New Perspectives in Eighteenth-Century French Intellectual History, Daniel Gordon ed., Routledge, 2001

"Sociability, Cartesianism and Nostalgia in Libertine Discourse," Eighteenth Century Studies (1997) 30: 4, 383-400 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/30053866)

“The Self, Real and Imaginary: Social Sentiment in Marivaux and Hume" Yale French Studies (1997) 92, 126-48 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/2930390)