Margaret Waller

Dr. Mary Ann Vanderzyl Reynolds '56 Professor of Humanities and Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures; On leave Fall 2022
  • Expertise


    A specialist in 19th-century French literature, Margaret Waller is an expert on gender and power and the translator of Julia Kristeva’s The Revolution in Poetic Language (1984). Her writing and teaching engages literature, history, art, popular culture, fashion, sexuality and critical race studies. Her subjects range from notions of male-versus-female genius to literary style as a performance of masculinity, and from the sexual politics of the first fashion magazines to ways of engaging 21st-century students in the study of 19th-century French novels.

    Her book, The Male Malady: Fictions of Impotence in the French Romantic Novel (1993), was one of the first to pioneer masculinity studies in the field of French literature. Her current book project, under contract with Columbia University Press, challenges our common assumptions about the “natural” relationship between fashion and gender difference. In Napoleon’s Closet: The Emperor, the Priest and the Men Who Invented Modern Fashion Magazines, Waller examines the cultural shift that took elite men’s clothing from the ostentatious and frilly styles of the eighteenth century to the sober and self-consciously masculine styles of today. In so doing, Waller reveals how, why, and when our culture developed its suspicion of men in “feminine” clothing and its certainty that a man in a suit is a “real man.” 

  • Work



    Napoleon’s Closet: The Emperor, the Priest, and Male Fashion (Columbia University Press, forthcoming)

    The Male Malady: Fictions of Impotence in the French Romantic Novel (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1993)

    Revolution in Poetic Language, translation of book by Julia Kristeva (New York: Columbia UP, 1984)


    “Trouble in Argus City: Peacocking, Invisibility, and Masculinity,” Romanic Review (submitted, accepted, forthcoming)

    “Ending with Indiana: Romance, Romanticism, the Novel,” Approaches to Teaching George Sand’s Indiana, ed. David Powell and Pratima Prasad (New York: Modern Language Association, 2015), pp. 193-199

    “Quand le style fait l’homme: le rose, le noir et le clair-obscur,” Masculinités en révolution, ed. Daniel Maira and Jean-Marie Roulin (Saint-Etienne : Presses Universitaires de Saint-Etienne, 2013), pp. 155-169

     “The Emperor’s New Clothes: Display, Cover-up and Exposure in Modern Masculinity,” in Entre hommes: French and Francophone Masculinities in Culture and Theory, ed. Todd Reeser and Lewis Seifert (Dover: University of Delaware Press, 2008), pp. 115-142

    "Realism and Its Others: Reading Bodies in Balzac and Girardin," Approaches to Teaching "Le Père Goriot," ed. Michal Ginsburg (New York: MLA, 2001)

    "Disembodiment as a Masquerade: Fashion Journalists and Other 'Realist' Observers in Directory Paris," Esprit Créateur 37, no. 1 (Spring 1997): 44-54

    Introduction to Ourika by Claire de Duras, French and English editions; with Joan DeJean (New York: MLA Texts and Translations Series, 1996), pp. 13-20

    "The Melancholic Man and the Lady with the Lyre: The Sexual Politics of Genius in Early Romantic Fiction and Painting," Correspondences, ed. Keith Busby (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993), pp. 223-238

    "Le Commencement de la fin? Le Deuil de l'homme au seuil du dix-neuvième siècle," in Rhétoriques fin de siècle, ed. Mary Shaw and François Cornilliat (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1992), pp. 160-171

    "Being René, Buying Atala: Alienated Subjects and Decorative Objects in Post-revolutionary France," in Rebel Daughters: Women and the French Revolution, ed. Leslie Rabine and Sara Melzer (New York: Oxford UP, 1992), pp. 157-177

    "Cherchez la femme: Male Malady and Narrative Politics in the French Romantic Novel," PMLA 104 (March 1989): 141-151

    "Interview with Julia Kristeva," Intertextuality and Contemporary American Fiction, ed. Patrick O'Donnell and Robert Con Davis (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1989): 278-291

    "Images du roman dans la Peau de chagrin" in Nouvelles lectures de "La Peau de chagrin," (Clermont, France: Société des Etudes Romantiques, 1979), pp. 116-125


    Doris Kadish, Fathers, Daughters, Slaves in The French Review 88, no 3 (March 2015): 217-218

    Mary Ellen Birkett and Christopher Rivers, Approaches to Teaching Duras’s “Ourika” in The French Review 84, 4 (March 2011): 815-816

    Catherine Nesci, Le Flâneur et les flâneuses : Les femmes et la ville à l’époque romantique in The French Review 82, 6 (May 2009) : 1317-1318

    Nathaniel Wing, Between Genders: Narrating Difference in Early French Modernism in South Central Review 22, 2 (Summer 2005): 146-148

    Yves Citton, Impuissances: Défaillances masculines et pouvoir politique de Montaigne à Stendhal in Nineteenth-Century French Studies (Winter 1995) : 225-226

    Nicole Loraux, Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman in South Carolina Review 21 (Fall 1988): 70-71


    Julia Kristeva, "Interview," Partisan Review 51 (1984): 120-132

    Julia Kristeva, "Within the Microcosm of the 'Talking Cure,'" in Interpreting Lacan, ed. Joseph H. Smith and William Kerrigan (New Haven: Yale UP, 1983), 33-48

    Julia Kristeva, "Psychoanalysis and the Polis," Critical Inquiry 9 (Autumn 1982): 77-92


    “Queer Lives,” panel presentation, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Pittsburgh, PA, 2016

    “Off with Their Cassocks! The Abbé, the Terror and Post-Revolutionary Masculinity,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Puerto Rico, 2014

    “Napoleon’s Closet: The Emperor, the Priest, and the Men Who Invented the Fashion Magazine,” Faculty Blue Room Lecture, Pomona College, 2014

    “Survival of the Fittest? The Pink, the Red and the Black,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of North Carolina, 2012

    “(Dé)voiler le masculin: Le Rouge, le noir et le clair-obscur,” « Masculin et Pouvoir de Rousseau à Balzac, » University of Basle, Switzerland, 2011

    “Masculinity in Uniform? The Military, the Clergy and Omniscience,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Pennsylvania, 2011

    La Mode, La Mésangère and la Masculinité: Between the Lines, Behind the Scenes and Beneath the Cassock,” “Beyond Fashion: Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1797-1839,” University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 2009

    “Domestic Orientalism: The One-Woman Harem at Home,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Vanderbilt University, 2008

    “100 Eyes and 2,000 Pairs of Men’s Shoes: To Queer or Not to Queer the Emperor of Early Nineteenth-Century French Fashion,” Rhetoric of the Other, University of Illinois-Champaign, 2008

    “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? A Former Priest, His Closet and His Fashion Magazine (1797-1831),” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Mobile, AL 2007

    “Napoleon’s Closet: Display, Cover-Up and Exposure in Modern Masculinity,” invited lecture, La Maison Française, New York University, 2007

    “Napoleon’s Closet,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Bloomington, IN, 2006

    “Doctors Without Borders? Masculinity at Risk on the Napoleonic Home Front,” Modern Language Association, Washington, DC, 2005

    “The Talk of the Town: Normative Masculinity and the I/Eye of Fashion,” Modern Language Association, Washington, DC, 2005

    “The Hermaphroditic Doctor: Masculinity and its Limits in the Napoleonic Era,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Austin, TX, 2005

    “The Two Sides of Napoleon’s Closet,” Colorado College, April 2005

    “Welcome to the MLA,” Modern Language Association, Philadelphia, 2004

     “My Closet, My Self? History, Memory, Identity,” Mortar Board Last Lecture Series, October 2004

    “Think Globally, Act Locally? Anti-Conquest During the Empire,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Tucson, Arizona, 2003

    “The Empire’s New Clothes, or the Other Realism,” Pembroke Center, Brown University, 2003

    “Whose Desires? Colonialism on the Domestic Front,” Nineteenth-Century French Studies Conference, 2002

     “Around Balzac: Exposing the Panoptic," Ahmanson Foundation Humanities Initiative, "Realisms" Workshop, University of Southern California, 2001

    "Around Balzac: Exposing the Observer," Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Illinois, 2000

    “Exposing the Panoptic: Surveillance and Its Limits in Literary and Cultural Realism," Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Conference, Paris, France, 2000

    "Femininity style empire," Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, University of Kentucky, 2000

    "Fashioning Omniscience: Realism and Its Others," Department of French, Louisiana State University, 1999

    "Cherchez la canne: Exposing Omniscience in Girardin," Nineteenth-Century French Studies Conference, Penn State, 1998

    "Taking Liberties: (Re)Dressing Body Politics in Post-revolutionary France," University of California--Berkeley, 1997

    "Addressing Women/Undressing Men: Géricault or the Absence of Lions," Violating Tradition: Théodore Géricault and the Bourbon Restoration, University of British Columbia, 1997

    "Addressing Women/Undressing Men: Masculinity and the Fashion System in Restoration France," Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Georgia, 1997

    "Looking Back: Were We What We Wore?" Alumni Lecture, Lawrence University, 1996

    "The 'I' of the Beholder: (Re)Dressing Body Politics in Post-revolutionary France," Dartmouth College, 1996

    "No Place Like Home," The Place of the Literary in Cultural Studies, Modern Language Association, 1995

    "Who Was That Masked Man? Roving Reporters, Fashion Journalists, and Other 'Realist' Observers," Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Delaware, 1995

    "Amis des femmes? Beauty, Words, Work," Nineteenth-Century French Studies,

    University of California--Santa Barbara, 1995

    "Raiding Our Mother's Closet," performance piece, Pomona College, 1995

    "Our Mothers, Their Clothes: Fashioning Postmodern Identities," performance piece, University of Wisconsin--Madison, 1994

    "Taking Liberties: (Re)Dressing Body Politics in Post-revolutionary France,"

    University of Wisconsin--Madison, 1994

    "Taking Liberties: (Un)Dressing for the Revolution," Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Kansas, 1993; Pomona College, 1993

    "Retro Looks: Identity, Experience, History," Style, Fashion and the Negotiation of Identities, UC-Davis, 1993

    "Dressing Up for Carrie / Cary Grant," Ad/Dressing Bodies, University of Southern California, 1993

    "Sans Culottes: Miss California, Lady Godiva, and the Politics of Self-Exposure During the French Revolution," UC-Davis Humanities Institute, 1993

    "The Male Malady: Fictions of Gender in Romanticism," Clemson University, 1992

    "The Beginning of the End? Man in Mourning in Early Nineteenth-Century France," Rhétoriques Fin de Siècle, Rutgers University, 1992

    "Being René, Buying Atala: Alienated Subjects and Decorative Objects in Post-revolutionary France," Duke University, 1991

    "Fictions of Impotence: Men, Women and Power in the French Romantic Novel," Hamilton College, 1991

    "What's Wrong With Mr. Right: The Melancholy Face of Patriarchy in Corinne,"

    Modern Language Association, Chicago, 1990

    "The Melancholy Man and the Lady with the Lyre: Gender and Genius in Napoleonic France," Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Oklahoma, 1990

    "Being René, Buying Atala: Living on a Fault Line in Post-revolutionary France," Women and the French Revolution, UCLA, 1989

    "Having It Both Ways? Anonymous Authorship and Sexual Difference in Claire de Duras and Stendhal" MLA, Washington, D.C. 1989

    "Centering the Margins in French Romanticism: Race, Gender, and Revolution in Mme de Duras," Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Michigan, 1988

    "The Liberal Arts and Literary Criticism," Pomona College, 1988

    "Male Malady: The Politics of Narrative in the Early 19th-century French Novel," Department of French and Italian, University of Southern California, 1987; Department of French; University of California--Irvine, 1987

    "Being René, Buying Atala," Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Northwestern University, 1987

    "Doing and Not Doing Things with Feminism," Twentieth-Century French Studies, Duke University, 1987

    "Compounding Narrative Interest: Fictions of the Feminine in Chateaubriand's René," Nineteenth-Century French Studies, University of Nebraska, 1986

    "Female Bildung: Between Description and Prescription," Fourth Friday Symposium: Contemporary Critical Approaches to Modern Literature,Columbia University, 1980

    "Women and Humor: Les Stances à Sophie," Northeast Modern Language Association, Hartford, CT, 1979

  • Education


    Ph.D., French, Columbia University, 1986

    M.Phil., French, Columbia University, 1982

    M.A., French, Columbia University  1978

    B.A., summa cum laude, French, Lawrence University, 1976

  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    Pomona College, Sontag Research Fellowship, 2013-2014, 2016-2017

    American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 2013-2014

    Stanford Humanities Fellowship, 2013-2014 (declined)

    Pomona College, Harriet Barnard Award, research and travel in France, 2013

    Pomona College, First-Year Advising Award, 2012

    Pomona College, Harriet Barnard Award, research and travel in France, 2009

    Borchard Foundation, Scholar-in-Residency Grant, France, 2006

    Pomona College, Yale Griffith Fellowship, research and travel in France, 2005

    Pomona College, Hahn Teaching with Technology Grant, 2005

    Pomona College, The Wig Distinguished Professorship Award, 1991, 2000

    National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship for College Teachers, 1995-1996

    National Endowment for the Humanities, Summer Research Grant, 1993

    U.C.-Davis Humanities Institute, Resident Fellowship, 1992

    Graves Foundation, Research Grant Award, 1992

    Ford Foundation, Mentor, Student Internship Program, 1990

    Modern Language Association, William Riley Parker Prize for an Outstanding Article in PMLA, 1989

    Pomona College, Yale Griffith Summer Fellowship, 1989

    Columbia University, Justin O'Brien Dissertation Prize, 1986

    Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Research Grant in Women's Studies, 1985

    American Association of University Women, Dissertation Fellowship, 1984

    Northeast Modern Language Association, Research Fellowship, 1984

    Ecole Normale Supérieure, rue d'Ulm, Paris, Resident Fellowship, 1982

    Georges M. Lurcy Foundation, Research Abroad Fellowship, 1982

    Columbia University President's Fellowship, 1976, 1977, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985

    Phi Beta Kappa, Lawrence University, 1976