Indiana University Bloomington
Department of French and Italian

Hall Bjørnstad

Hall Bjørnstad

Associate Professor of French

Office: Ballantine Hall 618
Office phone: 855-6596
View CV

Research Areas

17th-century literature and culture, emphasis on the relationship between literature, politics, and philosophy


  • PhD, French literature, University of Oslo, Norway, 2006


My research focuses on shifting figurations of the human and its relationship to theories of modernity in early modern French literature. I am presently pursuing three different projects. First, as an extension of my work on Blaise Pascal (Créature sans créateur: Pour une anthropologie baroque dans les "Pensées" de Pascal, 2011, PU Laval), I continue to explore questions of originality, failure, agency and mastery in the Pascalian œuvre. The focus of my second project shifts from anthropology to the politico-theological underpinnings of absolutism. This project has its origin in my work on the creaturely in Pascal, more precisely in the Pascalian insight that human creatureliness is the flipside of royal glory, a flipside which is at once revealed and concealed through a process of self-mirroring. The project studies this dialectic as present in the construction of the image of Louis XIV in a corpus ranging from fairy-tales to political memoirs, from plays and fables to visual and plastic arts of the period. Finally, with Katherine Ibbett (University College London), I am editing a special issue of Yale French Studies on "Walter Benjamin's Hypothetical French Trauerspiel," to appear in December 2013. This volume brings together work from leading scholars of early modern Europe who take their cue from Benjamin to restore early modern France back to its place at the center of post-modern theoretical debates about the vexed origins of the modern world.

I take great pleasure in animated discussions that these and similar questions spark in my graduate seminars and in the undergraduate classroom.

Selected Publications


  • "Walter Benjamin’s Hypothetical French Trauerspiel," Yale French Studies, Number 124, co-edited with Katherine Ibbett. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014
  • Créature sans créateur: Pour une anthropologie baroque dans les 'Pensées' de Pascal. Saint-Nicolas, Québec: Presses de l'Université Laval (collections de la République des Lettres), 2011
  • Borrowed Feathers: Plagiarism and the Limits of Imitation in Early Modern Europe. Editor and author of the critical introduction. Oslo: Unipub, 2008. (Contributions by Kathy Eden, Marie-Luce Demonet, Terence Cave and others)
  • B. Pascal: Tanker [Pensées]. Translation, annotation (45 p.) and introductory essay (33 p.). Oslo: Pax, 2007; republished Oslo: De norske bokklubbene (Bokklubbens kulturbibliotek), 2007


  • "The marginalization of the Mémoires of Louis XIV." Forthcoming in The European Legacy
  • "'Fail Better': Pascal and the Good Uses of Failure." Seventeenth-Century French Studies 33-2 (2011). 72–79
  • "Boileau et Racine ont-ils composé les inscriptions de la galerie des Glaces à Versailles?" XVIIe siècle 63-1 (2011), 149-156
  • "'Vous m'avez fait voir des choses que j'ai ressenties': Le roi, son peintre et la question des émotions publiques." Littératures classiques, 68 (2009), 43-56
  • "Le savoir d'un conte moins conte que les autres: Le 'Sans Parangon' de Préchac et les limites de l'absolutisme." Féerie 6 (2009), 163-178
  • "'Plus d'éclaircissement touchant la grande galerie de Versailles': Du nouveau sur les premières inscriptions." XVIIe siècle 61-2 (2009), 321-343
  • 'The Metaphors of Textual Transfer: From Indigestion to Early Modern Tennis." [On Pascal and Montaigne] Borrowed Feathers: Plagiarism and the Limits of Imitation in Early Modern Europe. H. Bjørnstad, ed. Oslo: Unipub, 2008, 215-228
  • "Désapprendre à mourir: Pascal and the Philosophers of Death." Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature 33 (2006), 419-28
  • "Le rire de Beckett." Romansk forum 20 (2005), 49-55


  • F630: Expressions of Absolutism
  • F523: The Early Modern Crisis of Exemplarity
  • F424: Female Voices in Seventeenth-Century French Literature
  • F423: La scène tragique au XVIIe siècle
  • F362: La France 1500-1800
  • F305: Le poids de l'existence

Honors, Fellowships, and Awards

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, the Research Council of Norway, 2007-2010
  • Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Princeton and Paris-4 Sorbonne, 2007-2008
  • Summer Writing-Teaching grant from the Campus Writing Program, Indiana University, 2010