Anne Vila

Credentials: PhD, Johns Hopkins

Position title: Professor of French


Phone: 262-5075

638 Van Hise Hall




Eighteenth-century French literature and culture; intellectual history; history of the body and mind/body relations, 18th century to the present.


My research unfolds at the intersection of the French Enlightenment and the Medical Humanities. Having begun my career by investigating the intellectual and cultural history of sensibility, I continue to be fascinated by historical constructs of the mind/body relation and altered psychic states. I am equally interested in the conceptual transfers or cross-fertilizations that occurred between biomedical discourse, literary production, and moral/social philosophy during and after the Enlightenment era.  My current book project is “Convulsive Enlightenment: Lives and Afterlives of the Convulsionnaires in French Culture and Theory (18th to 21st Centuries).”



  • Suffering Scholars: Pathologies of the Intellectual in Enlightenment France, 2018
  • Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France, 1998

Edited Volumes Since 2014

  • Entre savoir et fantasme : le corps et ses énigmes, special issue of Arts et savoirs, co-edited with Florence Vatan.  Issue 11 (2019),  URL :
  • Reedition, coedited with Ronan Chalmin, of Samuel-Auguste Tissot, De la santé des gens de lettres, 2018
  • L’Esprit (dé)réglé: Literature, Sciences de l’homme, and the Life of the Mind in France, 1700-1900, special issue of L’Esprit créateur, co-edited with Florence Vatan. Vol. 56, No. 4 (Winter 2016).
  • Editor, A Cultural History of the Senses in the Age of Enlightenment (2014).

Articles Published or Forthcoming since 2021

  • “Le corps « secouru » : invulnérable ou agonisé ? Témoignages concurrents des grands secours dans le mouvement convulsionnaire du 18e siècle,” forthcoming in volume on Corps affectés, to be published by Éditions BHMS (Lausanne) (30 pp).
  • “The Powers and Perils of Solitude: Perspectives from Eighteenth-Century French Literature, Religion, and Medicine,” forthcoming in special issue on solitude/loneliness in Ruch Filozoficzny (31 pp).
  •  “Convulsive Theatrics in Eighteenth-Century France, from the Convulsionnaires to the Secular Stage,” Philological Quarterly 101.3 (2021), 393-418.
  • “Shaking Up the Enlightenment: Jansenist Convulsionnaires and their Witnesses in Mid-Eighteenth Century Paris,” special issue on “Literature, History, and Historiography” of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics (Spring 2021), 9-37.

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS (fall 2021-fall 2023)

  • “Convulsive Enlightenment: Lives and Afterlives of the Convulsionnaires in French Culture and Theory (18th to 21st Centuries),” seminar presented in September 2023 at UW-Madison, Institute for Research in the Humanities.
  • “La canaille convulsionnaire: (Un)Enlightened Masses and Hidden Elites in Debates on the Jansenist Convulsionary Movement,” presented in March 2023 at annual meeting of American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.
  • “From Solitaires to Deluded Crowd: The Many Faces of the Jansenist Convulsionary Movement,” presented in October 2022 at “Solitudes/Multitudes, 18th – 21st Centuries”: an international, interdisciplinary symposium at UW-Madison which I co-organized.
  • “The Body ‘Lethally Relieved’: Competing Accounts of the Crucifixions of Françoise, Rachel, and their Sister Convulsionnaires in Paris (1758-60),” invited lecture presented at international colloquium on « Corps affectés : Between the Natural and the Supernatural, Affected Bodies During the 18th Century », June 2022, Lausanne and Sierre, Switzerland.
  • “The ‘French Convulsionaries’ and their Fellow Fanatics in Bernard and Picart’s Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde,” invited lecture presented in December 2021 at the University of Minnesota.
  • “Convulsive Theatrics in Eighteenth-Century France, from the Convulsionnaires to the Secular Stage,” invited lecture presented at Johns Hopkins University, September 2021


  • Senior Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Institute for Research in the Humanities, 2021-25
  • Pickard-Bascom Professor of French, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016-2021
  • International Visiting Fellow of UK Society for French Studies, May-June 2017
  • Vilas Associate Award, University of Wisconsin, 1999-2001
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers, 1997-98
  • Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities at Stanford University, 1992-1993
  • Co-PI with Laura Martin (Librarian for Ibero-American Studies and Romance Languages and Literatures) on “An Enrichment Plan for French- and Italian-language Library Collections: Some Key Acquisitions,” OVCGRE Library Collections Enhancement Initiative Award, July 1, 2020 – December 30, 2021 and “Critical Editions/Additions for the French and Italian Collections, 12th to 20th Centuries,” OVCGRE Library Collections Enhancement Initiative Award, 2022-23.