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Jean Pedersen Headshot

Jean Pedersen

  • Associate Professor of History
  • Associate Professor of Humanities, Eastman School of Music

PhD, University of Chicago, 1993

447 Rush Rhees Library
(585) 275-3616


European History

Research Overview

My major interest as a scholar of intellectual and cultural history is in the question of how different social constructions of gender are developed, institutionalized, contested, and changed. In my first book, this interest prompted me to focus on the content and context of French debates over divorce, paternity suits, abortion and birth control in the period from 1870 to 1920, a period when public figures often linked domestic and foreign policy by stressing the continuities among their preferred forms of family policy, understandings of national identity, and visions of imperial expansion.

My new book project, which builds on my earlier articles on the life and work of sociologist Emile Durkheim, focuses on the relationships between men and women as public intellectuals in the period after the Dreyfus Affair and before the Second World War. As I study the lives of these academics, activists, novelists, and journalists, I am particularly curious about how and why some of them have continued to appear in our literary and social scientific canons over half a century later while others have disappeared from history in the space of their own lifetimes. My three most recent seminars have focused on international human rights, European cultural history, and comparative British, European, and American women's history; my other courses explore subjects such as comparative revolutions, World Wars I and II, and utopian communities in fact and fiction.

Graduate Fields

I offer the following fields for the PhD qualifying examination. For explanations of fields, see the "Program Formulation" page in the Graduate Handbook.

Teaching Fields: Western Civilization II; Women's History and Gender Studies (Transnational); Modern Europe; Modern France; International Human Rights (Transnational)

Research Fields: European Intellectual History; French Intellectual History; French Cultural History; History and Literature; Gender and History (Transnational)

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • HIS 232:  Modern France, Syllabus
  • HIS 303W/403:  International Human Rights, Syllabus

Select Publication Covers

Selected Publications

  • Legislating the French Family: Feminism, Theater, and Republican Politics, 1870-1920(Rutgers University Press, 2003).
  • "Sexual Politics in Comte and Durkheim: Feminism, History, and the Social Scientific Canon," Signs (Fall 2001).
  • "Nana and the Nation: French Cultural Studies and Interdisciplinary Work," in French Cultural Studies: Criticism at the Crossroads, ed. Marie-Pierre Lehir and Dana Strand (SUNY Press, 2000).
  • "'Something Mysterious:' Sex Education, Victorian Morality, and Durkheim's Comparative Social Science," Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences (Spring 1998).