Charlie O'Keefe

Charlie O'Keefe

Professor of French Emeritus
Position Type
Faculty
Service
- Present
Specialization
Francophone narratives
Biography

After studying in the New York City metropolitan area with the Jesuits first at Regis High School and then at Saint Peter’s College, I headed south to North Carolina for graduate work in French at Duke University in 1964. The prosperity of the times was such that a person like me from a working class family could go to graduate school “just because,” with no financial pressure, the “just because” in my case being a desire simply to learn more about French literature while improving my French. Being on the shy side, I was surprised to learn that I really enjoyed teaching, so much so that I stayed with it for close to fifty years until my retirement in 2012.

During my years at Denison I was fortunate enough to teach courses I really wanted to teach across the entire French curriculum, as well as in the Honors and First Year Seminar programs. Actually, one of the reasons I really wanted to teach them was that I devised a lot of them myself: Denison always encourages it teachers to devise good courses on their own. (No surprise then that Denison also encourages its students to design seriously innovative majors on their own.) Along the way many of my students and advisees honored and touched me by letting me befriend and mentor them. That my Denison colleagues honored me in 2006 by giving me the Distinguished Teaching Award was just an indication of how much the college’s students had inspired me to excel with them.

I was also encouraged to pursue a fairly idiosyncratic research agenda by the intellectual freedom fostered by Denison’s liberal arts values. Since we liberal arts teachers make our students take courses ranging over many different disciplines, I felt it only appropriate to have my own work as a French scholar range over my field in a variety of ways that reflect more than one discipline. So my research has used a number of critical approaches, leading to books and articles on both French and Francophone literature from the 17th to the 21st century. I have to admit that I often had the greatest satisfaction and fun trying to stretch disciplinary boundaries. For example, my most recent article offers a provocative comparative study of Homer's bronze-age Greek epic poem, the Odyssey and a 1968 postmodern French novel by the Nobel-prize winner Patrick Modiano, La place de l’étoile.
Although I was Chair and Associate Chair of Modern Languages on three occasions, and at various times a member of a wide variety of committees and task forces, many of the highlights of my extracurricular involvement at Denison came from working with students in group settings, for instance as part of the Denison Service Orientation in Washington DC (“DSO is an intense direct-service experience designed to help incoming students adjust to college, build strong friendships, and realize the possibilities available to them at Denison”), and Denison’s Sophomore Quest (“Working with older students, staff, and a motivational speaker, QUEST encourages participants to think creatively about their personal, professional and civic lives!”).
All in all I got a great education at Denison.


After studying in the New York City metropolitan area with the Jesuits first at Regis High School and then at Saint Peter’s College, I headed south to North Carolina for graduate work in French at Duke University in 1964. The prosperity of the times was such that a person like me from a working class family could go to graduate school “just because,” with no financial pressure, the “just because” in my case being a desire simply to learn more about French literature while improving my French. Being on the shy side, I was surprised to learn that I really enjoyed teaching, so much so that I stayed with it for close to fifty years until my retirement in 2012.
During my years at Denison I was fortunate enough to teach courses I really wanted to teach across the entire French curriculum, as well as in the Honors and First Year Seminar programs. Actually, one of the reasons I really wanted to teach them was that I devised a lot of them myself: Denison always encourages it teachers to devise good courses on their own. (No surprise then that Denison also encourages its students to design seriously innovative majors on their own.) Along the way many of my students and advisees honored and touched me by letting me befriend and mentor them. That my Denison colleagues honored me in 2006 by giving me the Distinguished Teaching Award was just an indication of how much the college’s students had inspired me to excel with them.
I was also encouraged to pursue a fairly idiosyncratic research agenda by the intellectual freedom fostered by Denison’s liberal arts values. Since we liberal arts teachers make our students take courses ranging over many different disciplines, I felt it only appropriate to have my own work as a French scholar range over my field in a variety of ways that reflect more than one discipline. So my research has used a number of critical approaches, leading to books and articles on both French and Francophone literature from the 17th to the 21st century. I have to admit that I often had the greatest satisfaction and fun trying to stretch disciplinary boundaries. For example, my most recent article offers a provocative comparative study of Homer's bronze-age Greek epic poem, the Odyssey and a 1968 postmodern French novel by the Nobel-prize winner Patrick Modiano, La place de l’étoile.
Although I was Chair and Associate Chair of Modern Languages on three occasions, and at various times a member of a wide variety of committees and task forces, many of the highlights of my extracurricular involvement at Denison came from working with students in group settings, for instance as part of the Denison Service Orientation in Washington DC (“DSO is an intense direct-service experience designed to help incoming students adjust to college, build strong friendships, and realize the possibilities available to them at Denison”), and Denison’s Sophomore Quest (“Working with older students, staff, and a motivational speaker, QUEST encourages participants to think creatively about their personal, professional and civic lives!”).
All in all I got a great education at Denison.

Degree(s)
B.A. from St. Peter's College; Ph.D. from Duke University

Learning & Teaching

Courses

-FIRST-YEAR SEMINAR 101: Strange Texts.
-FIRST YEAR SEMINAR 102: Strange Texts: Literary and Photographic Interpretation
-All basic French-language courses offered at Denison.
-FREN 201: French Area Studies.
-FREN 215 Intermediate French Reading and Grammar.
-FREN 305: Advanced Reading.
-FREN 311: Survey of French Literature I (From the Middle Ages through the 18th Century).
-FREN 312: Survey of French Literature II (19th and 20th Centuries).
-FREN 319: Survey of 19th Century French Literature.
-FREN 330: The Woman in Francophone Literature
-FREN 331: First-Person French Narrative
-FREN 418: Seminar.
-HONORS 174: Being Written, Being Writing: Women in Francophone Fiction
-HONORS 190: The Person in Literature.

Research

I studied a variety of interesting and important narratives from the Francophone canon, essentially trying to answer questions that the narratives raised for me.

Works

Publications

Books
-A Riffaterrean Reading of Patrick Modiano’s La Place de l’Étoile: Investigating the Family
Crime (Summa Publications, 2005).
-Void and Voice: Questioning the Limits of Narrative Convention in André Gide's Major First-
Person Narratives (Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures of the University of North
Carolina, 1996).
Articles
-“ Patrick Modiano’s Raphaël Schlemilovitch and Homer’s Odysseus Laertiades: Fit(ted)
Companions?” (Comparative Literature Studies [to be published in 2016]).
-“Sinking One’s Teeth into Mariama Bâ’s Une si longue lettre: Lessons of Cadmus” (Research
in African Literatures 40.2 [summer 2009]: 63-81]).
-“The Princess, Dido, Diana: Glimpses of the Lunar in La Princesse de Clèves,” (Papers on
French Seventeenth Century Literature 34.69 [2008]: 671-85]).
- “The Odyssey and Signs to the Rescue: Escaping the Labyrinth and Enjoying Gaps in Patrick
Modiano’s Rue des boutiques obscures” (Nottingham French Studies 45.2 [summer 2006]: 18-
26).
-“Hard to Swallow: A Not-So-Postmodern Reading of Patrick Modiano’s Postmodern Oeuvre”
(The French Review 77.5 [April 2004]: 930-41).
-“Horses, Movement, and the Paradox of Security in Stendhal's La Chartreuse de Parme” (The
French Review 63.2 [December 1989]: 250-59).
-“Rousseau's 'Courte Haleine': Ironic Intertext in André Gide's L'immoraliste” (The Comparatist,
May 1989).-“Why Call a Narrator 'Raphaël Schlemilovitch'?: Outrage and the Outrageous in Patrick
Modiano's La place de l'Etoile” (Literary Onomastics Studies XV [1988]: 67-74).
-“Onomastics and Narrative Convention in Gide's La symphonie pastorale” (Literary
Onomastics Studies 14 [1987]: 81-110).
-“Verbal-Erotic Anarchy in Gide's La symphonie pastorale” (The French Review 60.1 [October
1986]: 20-29).
-“Recall in Léopold Sédar Senghor's 'Joal'” (The French Review 57.5 [April l984]: 625-33).
-“Narrative Uncertainty in Stendhal's Armance” (The French Review 50.4 [March 1977]: 579-
85).

Papers
-“Ethical Criticism vs. Aesthetic Criticism: Can Affect in Patrick Modiano’s La place de l’étoile Help Widen the Debate ?” (read at the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, April 2011).
-“The Evolution of a Comparative Study of Patrick Modiano’s La place de l’étoile and Homer’s Odyssey: From Aesthetics to Hermeneutics to Ethics” (read at the Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 2010).
-“Questions of Interpretation: A Comparison of Patrick Modiano’s La place de l’étoile and Homer’s Odyssey” (read at the Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 2008).
-“Homer’s Odyssey in Light of Patrick Modiano’s La place de l’étoile: The View from Roland Barthes’s Inter-text” (read at the Fifth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, July 2007).
-“Mariama Bâ’s Une si longue lettre: Not so Long and Not a Letter” (paper accepted for presentation at the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, April 2007).
-“Tunisia: Glimpses of Geography as Destiny” (PowerPoint presentation at the Granville Fellowship of Granville, Ohio August 15, 2006).
-“Sinking One’s Teeth into Mariama Bâ’s Une si longue lettre: Teeth, Number, Complementarity” (read at the Fourth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, Tunis, Tunisia, July 3-6, 2006).
-“The Princess, Dido, Diana: Glimpses of the Lunar in La Princesse de Clèves” (paper read at the 59th Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, April 20-22, 2006).
-“Untangling the Tangle in La Princesse de Clèves: Mme de Lafayette’s Heroine as Interrogating Dido” (read at the Twenty-Fifth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 2005).
-“Patrick Modiano’s Villa Triste: Bordering on Not So Sad” (read at the 2005 Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, April 2005).
-“Signs to the Victim’s Rescue: Escaping the Labyrinth in Patrick Modiano’s Rue des boutiques obscures” (read at the Twenty-Fourth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 2004).
-“A Fictional Seventeenth-Century French Princess Lets down Her Hair. Or: The Orthodox/Unorthodox in Lit Crit, the University, La Princesse de Clèves, and—Who Knows?—Maybe Even Life” (read at Denison’s Faculty Luncheon, November 2003).
-“What’s a Lit Class? Lit Crit and Back” (presentation delivered July 2003 at the annual convention of the American Association of French Teachers).
-“The Referent in Literature: the Example of the Word ‘Hitler’ in Patrick Modiano’s La place de l'Étoile” (read at the Twenty-Third Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 2003).
-“Cutting up with Ockham’s Razor: A Not-So-Postmodernist Take on Patrick Modiano’s Postmodern Oeuvre” (read at the Twenty-Second Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 2002).
-“Killing the Self/Brother in Patrick Modiano’s La place de l'Étoile: ‘Avaler des lames de rasoir,’ or The Dilemma of a Jew Writing in French” (read at the Twenty-First Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 2001).
-“A Semiotic Reading of Narrative Ungrammaticalities in Patrick Modiano’s La place de l'Étoile” (read at the Twentieth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 2000).
-“Riffaterrean Subtext as Guide to Patrick Modiano’s Oeuvre” (read at the Nineteenth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 1999).
-“Patrick Modiano, the Odyssey, and G(u)ilt-Edged Intertextuality” (read at the Seventeenth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 1997).
-“Similarities between the Odyssey and Patrick Modiano's La place de l'Étoile: Some Pre-Post (-erous?) Postmodernist Features” (read at the Fifteenth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 1995).
-“The Drama of Erotic and Semiotic Substitution in André Gide's La symphonie pastorale” (read at the Fourteenth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 1994).
-“What Happens When the Narrator Is a Liar: An Allegory of Reading in André Gide's La symphonie pastorale” (read at the Thirteenth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 1993).
-“The Form of André Gide's First-Person Narratives in Light of Mikhail Bakhtin's Concept of the Novel” (read at the Twelfth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 1992).
-“Frustration of Desire: Content and Form in André Gide's L'immoraliste and La porte étroite” (read at the Tenth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 1990).
-“Editing, Personality, and Story in André Gide's La porte étroite” (read at the 15th Annual Conference on Literature and Film, February 1990, Florida State University).
-“Questioning the Conventional Interpretation of the Framed Narrative in L'immoraliste” (read at the 14th Annual Conference on Literature and Film, January 1989, at Florida State University).
-“Rereading Marie de France's Lai du laüstic: My Critical Odyssey—Or Should That Be, My Critical Penelop-ey?” (read at Denison University's Women's Studies Colloquium, March 1988).
-“The Palimpsest in André Gide's L'immoraliste in light of Derrida's Principle of Supplementarity” (read at the Eighth Annual Cincinnati Conference on Romance Languages and Literatures, May 1988).
“Rousseau's 'Courte Haleine': Ironic Intertext in André Gide's L'immoraliste” (read at the 13th Annual Conference on Literature and Film, January 1988, at Florida State University).
“Why Call a Narrator 'Raphaël Schlemilovitch'?: Outrage and the Outrageous in Patrick Modiano's La place de l'Etoile” (read at the Fifteenth Annual Conference on Literary Onomastics, June 1987).
“The Theme of Movement in P. Modiano's La place de l'Etoile” (read January, 1987 at the Twelfth Annual Conference on Literature and Film held at Florida State University.)
-“Onomastics and Narrative Convention in Gide's La symphonie pastorale” (read at the Literary Onomastics Convention, June 1986).
-Demonstration and critique of the Total Physical Response method in the teaching of foreign languages (Great Lakes College Association Foreign Language workshop, April l977).

Other

Honors & Awards

-The 2006 Denison University Charles A. Brickman Teaching Excellence Award.
-Professional Development Grants awarded by Denison University, Summers 2000, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1985, 1983, 1981, 1980, 1978, 1977.
-Course Development Grant awarded by Denison University, Summer 1993.
-Robert Good Faculty Fellowships, awarded by Denison University for full-time research, fall semesters1986 and 1993, spring semester ’99, fall semester 2007.
-Participated in NEH Summer Seminar on contemporary critical theory, June August, 1986.
-Teaching Fellow of the Great Lakes College Association, 1976 77.