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Haskins Lecturers


Natalie Zemon Davis

1998 Haskins Lecturer

Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Emeritus, Princeton University, and Northrop Frye Visiting Professor of Literary Theory, University of Toronto

The lecture was delivered on May 2 during the 1998 ACLS Annual Meeting.

From the lecture program:
Natalie Zemon Davis was born in Detroit, Michigan and was educated at Smith College, Radcliffe College, and the University of Michigan, from which she received her Ph.D. in 1959. She has taught at Brown University, at the University of Toronto (where she was one of the founders of the journal Renaissance and Reformation), at the University of California at Berkeley, at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and, since 1978, at Princeton University, where she has been the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and Director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. For the spring of 1987, she was the Henry Luce Visiting Professor at the Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University. In 1994-1995, she was the George Eastman Professor at Balliol College Oxford. Now Professor Emeritus from Princeton, she is Northrop Frye Visiting Professor of Literary Theory at the University of Toronto for 1996-1997. She has taught courses in the history of early modern France, and has also pioneered in interdisciplinary courses in history and anthropology, history and film, and history and literature; the study of women and gender; and the history of the Jews in early modern Europe and in Jewish studies.

Her research activity and publications have been in the social and cultural history of sixteenth-century France and in early modern Europe, where she has been especially concerned to get at the lives and values of peasants, artisans, and women, and to analyze their relation to other social groups and to power, property, and authority. Her current work is taking her outside Europe's bounds to colonial Quebec and Suriname. In her book Society and Culture in Early Modern France (1975, and translated into six other languages) and in numerous essays, she has examined early trade unions, women's work, carnivals, the structure of religious riots, the urban uses of religious symbolism, the impact of printing, the uses of proverbs and popular forms of autobiography, and family memory and culture. Her book The Return of Martin Guerre (1983, and translated into nine other languages) and her collaboration on the French film of the same name allowed her to explore the creation of identity in a peasant milieu and the resonance of a story that has fascinated readers since the sixteenth century. Her Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (1987, and translated in four other languages) is a literary and political analysis of the stories people told the king to get pardoned for homicides and other capital crimes.

Her most recent book is Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth Century Lives (1995, and published or forthcoming in six other languages). In this triptych she describes the lives and writings of a Jewish woman, who left a remarkable autobiography in Yiddish; a Catholic woman, who left a spiritual autobiography and founded the first Ursuline convent and school in North America; and a Protestant woman, who pioneered in a new form of entomological and botanical description, especially in regard to the natural world of Suriname. The book explores the sources of creativity in seventeenth-century life and the relations of European women with the Amerindians and Africans of the "New World."

Natalie Davis has been awarded honorary degrees from the Université de Lyon II and from several American institutions, and has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. She has been president of the Society for French Historical Studies and during 1987 was president of the American Historical Association. She is currently first vice-president of the International Congress of Historical Sciences. She now resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is associated with the University of Toronto. Her husband is a professor of mathematics. She has three children and three grandchildren.


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