Seth Graebner

Associate Professor of French and of International and Area Studies​
Director of Undergraduate Studies in IAS
Coordinator, European Studies and Global Cultural Studies concentrations
PhD, Harvard University
research interests:
  • Literature and Cultural History of French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean
  • 19th- and 20th-Century French Literature

contact info:

office hours:

  • ​Tuesday & Thursday
  • 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1077
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
image of book cover

Seth Graebner's research, focused on the relationship between France and the Arabo-Muslim and African worlds, aims to integrate the literary and cultural studies of the wider French-speaking world with that of France itself.

Director of the IAS Honors Program, and Coordinator for the European Studies and Global Cultural Studies concentrations, Seth Graebner earned his doctorate in French literature at Harvard University. He holds a joint appointment in French and in International and Area Studies. His area of specialization is the literature and cultural history of French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean, and he also works on nineteenth- and twentieth-century French literature. He has taught undergraduate and graduate seminars on “The French Islands from Code Noir to Condé,” “Tragedy and Farce in Francophone African Literature,” “Writing North Africa,” and “Contemporary Francophone Literature.” In International and Area Studies, his courses include a freshman seminar on globalization and culture, as well as “Islam, Immigrants, and the Future of European Culture.” He is Chair of the Francophone Faculty Group.

Professor Graebner has published History’s Place: Nostalgia and the City in French Algerian Literature (Lexington, 2007), as well as articles on literature and urban history, such as “Kateb Yacine and the Ruins of the Present,” in the journal Sub-Stance, “Remembering 17 October 1961 and the Novels of Rachid Boudjedra,” in Research in African Literatures, and “The Bird’s-Eye View: Looking at the City in Paris and Algiers,” in Nineteenth-Century French Studies, as well as several book chapters. He is currently working on a book-length study titled Modernity from the Margins: Constructing and Observing Mediterranean Cities 1830-1900, tracing the development around the Mediterranean of nineteenth-century modes of urban description. His research, focused on the relationship between France and the Arabo-Muslim and African worlds, aims to integrate the literary and cultural studies of the wider French-speaking world with that of France itself.

History's Place: Nostalgia and the City in French Algerian Literature

History's Place: Nostalgia and the City in French Algerian Literature

History's Place explores nostalgia as one of the defining aspects of the relationship between France and North Africa. Dr. Seth Graebner argues that France's most important colony developed a historical consciousness through literature, and that post-colonial writers revised it while retaining its dominant effect. The North African city became a privileged place in the relationship between literacy and historical discourses in the colony. Graebner analyzes the importance of architecture and urbanism as markers of historical development, as the urban fabric and descriptions of it became signs of difference between metropole and colony. Discussing writers as diverse as Bertrand, Randau, and Kateb, this book examines how the changing Algerian city has remained the locus of a debate colored by various sorts of nostalgia. Graebner demonstrates that nostalgia was symptomatic of historical anxiety generated by colonial conditions, but with literary consequences for mainland France as well. History's Place is a comprehensive and valuable addition to the study of French literature and cultural studies.