Skip to main content

Gender and Sexuality


With Gender and Sexuality at the core of all areas of the Humanities, French & Italian Studies have close links to gender studies. Since the middle ages, the French and Italians have had much to say about women, feminism, masculinity, transgender, intersex, queerness, and sexuality. Graduate students interested in gender and sexuality will find an extremely vibrant intellectual home in FRIT. We study gender in all kinds of texts from all periods, from the middle ages to the 21st century, in literature, theory, film, TV, journalism, magazines, digital media, bandes dessinées, performance, art, and other cultural artifacts. We think about gender in France, in Italy, in the Maghreb, in the Caribbean, in Subsaharan Africa, and in other parts of the Italian/French-speaking world. Gender and sexuality are woven throughout all of our graduate courses, and some courses take gender as their focus. We routinely place theories of gender into dialogue with literature and other cultural artifacts to produce cutting-edge interpretations of gender constructs in Italian- and French-speaking contexts. We believe that gender and sexuality can be fruitfully placed into dialogue with French and Italian Studies, producing new ways of thinking for both disciplines.

Faculty and PhD students are working or have worked on major research projects related to gender in the French banlieue, the history of transgender as a category in France (50s to today), gender and affect theory, queer French film in the 21st century, non-binary pedagogy, Black African feminism(s), women's gender performance  in Senegal and the Senegalese diaspora, sexuality and capitalism in the 19th century, gender and animality/interspecies love, rural queerness in France today, trans* expression in French film/graphic novel, early modern transgender youth, queer French documentary, African intersectionalities, queer Maghrebi literature, and many others. 

The French PhD and Italian MA are complemented by the interdisciplinary Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) program, which offers an MA and a PhD certificate and broad courses such as feminist theory, queer theory, masculinities in theory and practice, intersectionality, disability, transgender studies, gender and the global, gendered embodiment, and many others. A French faculty member recently served for two terms as director of the program. Through GSWS, students become part of an interdisciplinary intellectual community centered on gender. The program offers fellowships in LGBTQ+ studies and a graduate organization (GSO). Advanced French PhD students have the chance to teach a section of our multi-section "French Kiss" course, bringing their interests and coursework to bear on undergraduate teaching. This experience of teaching a general education course is invaluable for looking for an academic job or for honing teaching skills.  

Because gender studies is a much more widespread approach in North America than in many parts of the world, potential students from outside North America may find our program an especially exciting intellectual home conducive to their interests. PhD students will leave our program at the cutting-edge of French/Francophone studies as well as gender/sexuality studies. For those seeking academic jobs, gender is frequently mentioned as a desired specialty or subspecialty. Research on gender can also be excellent preparation for other careers.

The University provides strong support for its LGBTQIA+ members and the city offers many opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ community, including an Equality Center and a film festival in the fall.

Recent Events in the Gender and Sexuality Network
  • Lecture by Astou Gueye: "Selling Eroticism: Senegalese Urban Sexualities and the Economy of Jongé," Jan. 2023.
  • Lecture by Joseph-Masséna, 'Eziliphonics: Afro-sonic Feminism in Haitian Women’s Fiction', April 22, 2022
  • Lecture by Kaliane Ung (University of Pittsburgh), "The First Days of Maternity in Contemporary French Literature," January 26, 2021
  • "From Abdication to Independence: Beauvoir’s Philosophy of Love as Emancipatory Analysis," with Manon Garcia (Harvard), Feb. 13, 2020 
  • “Soviet Signoras: Personal and Collective Transformations in East European Migration to Italy,” lecture by Martina Cvajner, Jan. 22, 2020.
  • "What is a Woman?: Beauvoir’s Understanding of Sex as Situation," with Manon Garcia, Feb. 13, 2020 (lecture for undergrads)
  • “Gender and Sexuality in the L2 Classroom: A Round Table for Faculty and Grad Students," moderated by Todd Reeser. Wednesday, November 20, 2019
  • "Bucolic Movements: 'Transing' the Pastoral," with Cole Cridlin (PhD student), Jan. 15, 2020
  • "Debauchery and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century France," with Lisa Jane Graham (Haverford). Hosted by the Early Modern Worlds Initiative, in conjunction with FRIT, Oct. 31, 2019
  • "Violette Leduc Wounded at Birth: The Bastard, the Insult, the Writer," with Kaliane Ung, Oct. 9, 2019
  • "Religion, Saints & Sex: A Symposium in Honor of Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski," Sept. 20, 2019
  • Lecture by Fabio Parasecoli (NYU), "Food, Gender, and Media in Italy," September 2018
  • "Queer Maghrebi French," with Denis Provencher (U Arizona), Sept 13, 2017
  • "Depathologizing Diversity: Critiques of Normative Thinking about the Body," with Kathleen Perry Long (Cornell U), Nov 14, 2017
  • Workshop on Transgender/Non-binary approaches to language teaching, with Kris Knisely (U South Dakota), Oct 20, 2017
  • Campus Visit of LGBT Moroccan Writer Abdellah Taia, Sept 28, 2015
  • Lecture by Giuseppina Pellegrino, Professor of Sociology and Communication at the U of Calabria and Pitt Distinguished Italian Fulbright Lecturer, “Engendering Italy: Gaps, Contradictions, and Paradoxes of Gender on the EU Background,” February 2013

Sample Graduate Courses

  • French Feminisms, spring 2021, Kaliane Ung
  • Animality, Gender, Sexuality, spring 2020, spring 2023, Kaliane Ung
  • French Studies, Gender Studies, fall 2019, Todd Reeser
  • The Body in the Middle Ages, fall 2018, Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski
  • Gender, Sexuality, Renaissance, fall 2018, spring 2023, Todd Reeser
  • Sexual and Economic Exchanges in the Early 19th Century, Giuseppina Mecchia
  • Regen(d)erating the Novel with Proust and Gide, Giuseppina Mecchia
  • Masculinities in Theory and Practice, Todd Reeser (through GSWS)

Current PhD Students currently working in this Network

  • Yacine Chemssi
  • Elsie Campbell
  • Spencer Fricard
  • Brendan Ezvan
  • Lucas Proper

Alums in this Network

  • Don Joseph
  • Caitlin Dahl
  • Cole Cridlin
  • Karen Adams
  • Eleonore Bertrand
  • Sylvia Grove
  • Andrea Jonsson
  • Maeva Mateos
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Amy Romanowski
  • Robert Fagley
  • Zach Moir
  • Pat Nikiema
  • Jonathan Devine

Sample Undergraduate Courses

  • Gender, Sexuality, and French Thought (taught in English), Todd Reeser (offered regularly)
  • Ailing Bodies, Kaliane Ung
  • Kings & Queens, Chloe Hogg
  • Euro chic: The Invention of Fashion, Giuseppina Mecchia
  • French Kiss, multiple instructors, offered every semester
  • Gender & Sexuality in 21st Century France (taught in French), Todd Reeser
  • Modern French Novel (Gender/Sexuality focus), multiple instructors
  • French Theatre Workshop, Kaliane Ung (Moliere's L'Ecole des femmes)
  • Gender and Migration Untangled: Italy and Europe, spring 2020, Martina Cvajner 

Sample Undergraduate Research Projects

  • Sexuality and the Reception of Plato's androgyne, research cluster with Todd Reeser (3 students including two first-year students)
  • Julia Hartigan, Honors Thesis: "Les écrivaines haïtiennes et la migration genrée: réconcilier un passé violent et l'identité nationale" (John Walsh, dir.), Spring 2019
  • Amanda Parent, Honors Thesis, "Les négociations du travail sexuel dans les médias français contemporains" (Todd Reeser, dir.), Fall 2021


Network Coordinator: Todd Reeser