Helen Solterer

Helen Solterer

Professor of Romance Studies

External address: 
217B Language Center, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Box 90257, Durham, NC 27708-0257
(919) 660-3118
Office Hours: 
Wednesdays, 5-6 pm.& by appt.

My research focuses on early, modern literature and culture in French. I consider fiction in historical action, its first forms in relation to many others, including the contemporary.  

 Timely Fictions, the book I’m writing now, pursues this approach in a series of pictorial essays focused on poetry, drama, narrative.  Each essay cuts “across the grain of time” considering, for example, Villon, with Hugo and Glissant, Christine de Pizan with Edith Thomas, the mystery play with Sartre.  This work has been supported by the Francophone Digital Humanities project, Making Medieval Poetry, funded by a grant from French Cultural Services.  My last book, Medieval Roles for Modern Times, explores a similar approach by investigating early theater and its twentieth-century creation. Un Moyen Âge républicain : paradoxes du théâtre en temps de guerre, its adaptation, was featured at the History Book Festival in Blois, France.

 InTransit: Arts of Migration around Europe is a research group I co-convene bringing together faculty from Romance Studies, Art, Art History and Visual Studies, as well as the Nasher Museum.  Through a series of four installations across campus this fall, 2018, the group offers a historical perspective on migration today in areas of the world where Romance languages are spoken -- Europe, Africa, the Americas.   Work with my students on the case of francophone Northern Europe is part of the exhibit at the Museum

Seminars offered to students at all levels include: Cultural Memory; French Short Fiction; Early, Modern Times – A User’s Manual; Biography, History of Free Speech : Francophonie-USA. Collaboration defines all my teaching: multi-lingual critics, writers, and artists of all stripes contribute to these classes.

Off campus, I’m also at work on a book of another style: a literary biography and family narrative set in Dublin-Paris.



  • Ph.D., University of Toronto (Canada) 1986

Solterer, H. “La Belle Dame sans Merci.” In Medieval Women: An Encyclopedia, edited by Katharina M. Wilson and Nadia Margolis, 80–84. New York: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Solterer, H. “The Freedoms of Fiction for Gender in Premodern France.” In Gender in Debate from the Early Middle Ages to the Renaissance, edited by Thelma S. Fenster and Clare A. Lees, 135–63. New York: Palgrave Press, 2002.

Solterer, H. “Performer le passé.” In Paul Zumthor Ou l’invention Permanente. Critique, Histoire, Poésie, edited by Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet and Christopher Lucken, 117–59. Droz, 1998.

authored, Christopher co-, E Jane Burns, Sarah Kay, and Roberta L. Krueger. “Feminism and the Discipline of Old French Studies: "Une Bele Disjointure".” In Medievalism in a Modernist Temper, edited by R Howard Bloch and Stephen G. Nichols, 225–66. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Solterer, H. M. “"Amériques prémodernes ? Départ pour le grand Nord”.” In Poétiques de Paul Zumthor, edited by H. M. éds. Jean-René Valette,  Idelette Muzart-Fonseca dos Santos. Paris: Garnier, n.d.


SOLTERER, H. “Figures for Female Militancy in Medieval France.” Signs 16, no. 2 (1991): 522–49. https://doi.org/10.1086/494682. Full Text

SOLTERER, H. “Letter-Writing & Picture Reading: Medieval Textuality and the "Bestiaire d'amour".” Word & Image 5, no. 1 (1989): 131–47.