Bard Faculty

Marina van Zuylen

Professor of French and Comparative Literature; Director, French Studies Program; National Academic Director, Clemente Course in the Humanities

Academic Program Affiliation(s): First-Year Seminar, Foreign Languages, Cultures, and Literatures, French Studies, Literature

Academic Expertise: French Studies

Area of Specialization: Nineteenth- and twentieth-century French, Russian, German comparative literature


A.B., M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University. Author, Difficulty as an Aesthetic Principle (Tübingen, 1993); Monomania: The Flight from Everyday Life in Literature and Art (Cornell University Press, 2005); and The Plenitude of Distraction (Sequence Press, 2016). Recent articles include "Rancière and the Reinvented Habitus" (in Understanding Rancière, Understanding Modernism, Bloomsbury Press); "The Secret Life of Monsters" in Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon; “Difficulty,” Encyclopedia of Aesthetics; “Of Degenerates, Criminals, and Literary Offenders”, “The Importance of Being Lazy,” and "Fatigued" in Cabinet; “Maghreb and Melancholy,” Research in Francophone Literature; “Monomanie à deux,” Etudes Françaises. She has published in praise of some of the most beleaguered maladies of modernity—boredom, fatigue, idleness, mediocrity—and written about snobbery, dissociative disorders, and obsessive compulsive aesthetics. She has published extensively on the work of Jacques Rancière and has written about art and aesthetics for MoMA and other art-related venues. She has taught at Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, and the university of Paris VII. Awards include Lurcy Fellowship; Council on Research and Faculty Development Grant, Columbia University; Sheldon Fellowship, Whiting Fellowship, Harvard University; Bard Research Grant. She is the national academic director of the Clemente Course in the Humanities (, a free college course for underserved adults, and accepted on its behalf a National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2014. She is presently writing Good Enough, a book about the unsung virtues of classical and modern mediocrity. At Bard since 1997.


  • Research Interests: History of the novel, representation of private life, philosophies of temporality;; currently writing about neutrality and disengagement in recent criticism; idleness and the work ethic in Franco-American cultural history; history of marriage in the nineteenth century; representation of suffering in psychiatric literature
  • Teaching Interests: Comparative literature, First-Year Seminar, French literature, and intellectual history; philosophical approaches to the novel; Baudelaire and nineteenth-century aesthetics; German Romanticism; French women writers
  • Other Interests: Animal Rights; history of boredom; modernist aesthetics; asceticism in art and literature; art in the nineteenth-century novel


2008 — Contribution
Marina van Zuylen was educated in Paris, France. She received her B.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures and her Ph. D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. She has taught at Harvard in the Literature Concentration and was Assistant Professor of French in the Department of French at Columbia University. She is now Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Bard College.

She is the author of Difficulty as an Aesthetic Principle (Tübingen, 1993); Monomania: The Flight from Everyday Life in Literature and Art (Cornell University Press, 2005); and The Plenitude of Distraction (Sequence Press, 2016). Recent articles include "Am I a Snob? Are you a Snob? Musings on the Fragility of Good Taste," Equinoxes 9, "Of Degenerates, Criminals, and Literary Offenders" and "The Importance of Being Lazy" (Cabinet); "Maghreb and Melancholy" (Research in Francophone Literature);"Monomanie à deux" (Etudes Françaises), and "The Secret Life of Monsters," an essay on Odilon Redonfor the Museum of Modern Art’s Redon exhibition. She is presently working on a book about idleness vs. the work ethic in the Franco-American imagination (audio-lecture on sloth at


Phone: 845-758-7381
Location: Hopson
Office: 103