Philippe Willems - NIU - Foreign Languages & Literatures


Philippe Willems

Philippe Willems

PhD, University of Colorado at Boulder
MA, University of Wyoming
DEUG, Université de Nice

Under the general heading of word-and-image studies, my research interests lie at the intersection of cultural history, semiotics, and media studies.

Born and raised in France, I learned to read with the bande dessinée (the French-language comic strip) before I entered grammar school. My Master's thesis at the University of Wyoming surveyed the place of the graphic novel in 20th-century French culture. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a dissertation examining the concept of mimesis in 19th-century culture and the strategies of realism deployed in the futuristic novels of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Albert Robida. Robida was a graphic artist and writer whose works range from historical research to futuristic science fiction. His hybrid fiction narratives offer an uncommon degree of interaction between word and image.

Before coming to NIU, I taught at Vassar College and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I have since published the first critical edition and English translation of Robida's satirical, illustrated science-fiction novel The Twentieth Century [Le Vingtième Siècle, 1882]. With a working title of French-language Graphic Literature and Sequential Narratives in the 19th Century, my current book project examines the development of the comic strip from a perspective framed by that era’s unprecedented multiplication of word/image experiments and proliferation of the serial image. This research examines the works of key European early graphic novelists, as well as other narrative forms that blended text and image in various proportions.

Selected Publications

Between Panoramic and Sequential: Nadar and the Serial Image.” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide. Vol. 11, Issue 3 (Autumn 2012).

“Rodolphe Töpffer and Romanticism,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies. Vol. 37.3 & 4 (Spring-Summer 2009): 227-246.

“’This Strangest of Narrative Forms:’ Rodolphe Töpffer’s Sequential Art,” Mosaic. A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Vol. 41.2 (June 2008): 127-147.

“Form(ul)ation of a Novel Narrative Form: Nineteenth-Century Pedagogues and the Comics,” Word & Image. A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry. Vol. 24.1 (January-March 2008): 1-14.

Albert Robida’s The Twentieth Century. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004. 62-page introduction; 15 pages of biographical/ bibliographical materials; 381 pages of translated text and notes.

E-mail Philippe Willems
Watson Hall 315
(815) 753-6463