Catherine J. Spencer

Catherine J. Spencer

Elizabeth S. Kruidenier ’48 Professor Emeritus of French

Joined Connecticut College: 1985-2015

Ancienne élève de l’”Ecole Normale Supérieure” (Paris)
“Maîtrise” in Archeology, Sorbonne/Paris I.
“Agrégation” in “Lettres Classiques,” Sorbonne/Paris IV
“Doctorat”, 3e cycle in French literature, Sorbonne/Paris III


17th century French literature

French cinema

Theory (structuralism & Post); Gay and Lesbian/Queer theory

"Bande dessinee" - Franco-Belgian comics

Catherine Spencer retired from teaching in 2015. She had served as the Chair of the French Department (formerly French and Italian Department) for many years. She had also served on several college committees such as FSCC, EPC and AAPC and as a member of the Film Studies Advisory Board.

Her first book, La Tragédie du prince, was published in 1987 by Biblio 17, Paris - Seattle - Tübingen.

Her second book titled À Corps Perdus: Théâtre, désir, représentation, (L'Harmattan, 2005) focuses on the body as performance, both on the stage and on the screen. Translating to "Body and Soul: Essay on the Representation of Desire in Theatre" the book explores the possibility of an eroticism specific to the theatrical experience. The historical point of departure is the Puritans' and seventeenth-century French Moralistes' crusade against the stage; the early emphasis on the premodern gives Spencer an opportunity to examine the changing conceptions of the body and "sexuality" (as it was not yet called). The analysis is interdisciplinary, from the "pastorale" baroque to the contemporary "film de théâtre" as in Truffaut' s Le Dernier métro and Almodovar's La Ley del Deseo (The Law of Desire).

Her other scholarly work includes 15 articles on 17th c. French literature and French Cinema, published in The Romanic Review, The French Review, XVIIe siècle and Cahiers du Dix-Septiéme. She has lectured extensively in the United States and in France.

Spencer was named “Teacher of the Year” in 1996. 

Catherine Spencer has organized major conferences over the past decade:

- in April 1993, an International Colloquium titled “Poetics and Politics: New Approaches to Seventeenth Century French Literature.” Among the invited speakers were Georges Molinié (Paris IV) Jacques Morel (Paris III), Alain Viala (Paris III), Jean-Marie Apostolidès (Stanford University), John Lyons (U. of Virginia).

- In May 1999, an interdisciplinary conference, titled “Teaching the Text? The Future of Literary Studies,” with specialists in “textual studies”, among whom were Peggy Phelan (NYU) and Lee Edelman (Tufts University.)

- a conference in Film Studies: “Constructing Identities: The Place of Film Studies,” at Connecticut College, October 24-25, 2002, with speakers Professor Dudley Andrew (Yale University), Professor Chris Straayer (NYU,) Professor John Schott (Carleton College), and Profesor Mia Mask (Vassar College).

View the French department website.

Majoring in French.

Contact Catherine J. Spencer

Mailing Address

Catherine J. Spencer
Connecticut College
Box #5631
270 Mohegan Ave.
New London, CT 06320