Philippe Willems
PhD, University of Colorado at Boulder
MA, University of Wyoming
DEUG, Université Nice Sophia Antipolis

This space aims to showcase related interests and activities in one place. As a professor in French studies, I have taught a wide range of courses. Despite their diversity, each of them combines three of my guiding objectives at various levels: providing students with the tools to express themselves in a foreign language, helping them assimilate cultural knowledge, and raising their awareness of how meaning is produced.P1030372* Such skills give you an edge on the job market, a broader understanding of the world, present and past, and help navigate an information-saturated environment. To the adventurous, they open life-changing opportunities.

I am also a cultural historian captivated with the exoticism of worldviews of the past. I enjoy the feel of yesteryear’s books, periodicals, pictures, and optical technology. Focused on the 1800s but extending into other time periods, my research interests lie at the intersection of word-and-image studies, semiotics, and media studies.  Published ventures in that domain examine the development of early bande dessinée (that’s French for “comic strip”—literally: “drawn strip”) as framed by the unprecedented proliferation of serial images and word/image experiments that took place in that era. These investigations focus on creative narrative strategies deployed by key European cartoonists exploring new storytelling possibilities, some prefiguring cinematic techniques, others taking advantage of their medium’s specificities, others yet reflecting cutting-edge notions in the literature and visual culture of their time.

[Exhibit A – Early instance of reflexivity in the graphic novel: in this strip, which forms the entire page 35 of a single-sided, 40-page oblong book, Mr Jobard comes across a comic book telling his (mis)adventures in Parisian publisher Aubert’s display window, along with other actual titles of the first comic-strip collection in the world:

Cham. Histoire de Mr. Jobard, 1840.

Cham. Histoire de Mr. Jobard. Paris: Aubert, 1840.]

My job as an archeologist of the comic strip requires nerves of steel: I get to laugh while conducting research but I have to hold it when granted access to a library’s rare book collection. It can feel like undercover work.

Finally, however much I seek the time-travel sensations procured by immersion in past print culture and early photography, I don’t always have my face buried in a book or a stereoscope, as Yoshie, Ken, and our loved ones across the US, France, and Japan will tell you.


Doré, Monta, Morin, Tronsens. Journal pour rire, 1849.

Doré, Monta, Morin, Tronsens. Journal pour rire, 1849.


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