Brian Martin Wins Wylie Prize in French Studies

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., January 25, 2013—Brian Joseph Martin, associate professor of French and comparative literature at Williams College, has been awarded the Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies for Napoleonic Friendship: Military Fraternity, Intimacy, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century France (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2011).

Brian MartinCreated in 1995 to honor the memory of Laurence Wylie, professor of French civilization at Harvard University, the Wylie Prize is awarded biennially to the best book in French social or cultural studies. In addition to the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies, which is often awarded to a senior scholar in the field, the Wylie Prize is recognized as one of the most prestigious book prizes in the field of French Studies. The jury for this year’s prize includes prominent scholars in French history and literature from New York University, Harvard, Tufts, and Duke, who chose Napoleonic Friendship from among 65 books under consideration in 2010 and 2011.

Postponed in November 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy, the prize ceremony will take place at New York University’s Institute of French Studies (Maison Française, ?16 Washington Mews?, between Fifth Avenue and University Place, just north of Washington Square Park) on March 27, 2013, at 7 p.m., when Professor Martin will give a lecture titled “Queer Napoleon: from Napoleonic Friendship to Gays in the Military.” The ceremony and lecture are free and open to the public.

One of the first books on “Gays in the Military” published following the historic repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 2011, Napoleonic Friendship examines the history of male intimacy in the French military, from Napoleon to the First World War. Echoing the historical record of gay soldiers in the United States, Napoleonic Friendship is the first book-length study on the origin of queer soldiers in modern France. Based on extensive archival research in France, the book traces the development of affectionate friendships in the French Army from 1789 to 1916. Following the French Revolution, radical military reforms created conditions for new physical and emotional intimacy between soldiers, establishing a model of fraternal affection during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars that would persist amid the ravages of the Franco-Prussian War and World War I. Through readings of Napoleonic military memoirs (and other non-fiction archival material) and French military fiction (from Hugo and Balzac to Zola and Proust), Martin examines a broad range of emotional and erotic relationships, from combat buddies to soldier lovers. He argues that the French Revolution’s emphasis on military fraternity evolved into an unprecedented sense of camaraderie in the armies of Napoleon. For many soldiers, the hardships of combat led to intimate friendships. For some, the homosociality of military life inspired mutual affection, lifelong commitment, and homoerotic desire.

Reviewed in many prominent journals in both literary and historical studies, Napoleonic Friendship has been praised as “the postmodern military history that Foucault never wrote” (H-France Review), “a seminal text in understanding the cultural production of masculinity and homosocial relations … a protestatory gesture against the silencing of gays in the military” (South Central Review), “a work of solid historiography and level-headed literary analysis … a well-documented historian’s presentation of how Napoleon … radically changed … the relationship between soldiers” (Gay and Lesbian Review), “one of the few academic books where the author’s prologue is a genuinely moving testimony and explains much of the passion of what follows” (French History), “a solid contribution to military and literary history” (Nineteenth-Century French Studies), “a provocative book … [o]riginal and challenging” (H-War Review), and as “a remarkable contribution to historical, literary, military, and queer studies” (American Historical Association’s Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History).

Published in the series “Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies” by the University Press of New England and the University of New Hampshire Press, Napoleonic Friendship was also nominated for a prestigious Lambda Literary Prize in LGBT Studies in 2012. The book is widely available on both and in hardcover, paperback, and e-book forms.

A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College in 1993 and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Stockholm (Sweden) in 1993-94, Brian Joseph Martin earned his M.A. in comparative literature from UCLA in 1996, and his Ph.D. in Romance languages from Harvard University in 2003. Having previously taught at UCLA, Harvard, and the École Normale Supérieure in France, Martin became a member of the Williams faculty in 2004. Martin’s teaching and scholarship focus broadly on gender and sexuality in France and on Nordic masculinities from Scandinavia to Québec.

For more information on Brian Joseph Martin and Napoleonic Friendship: (Keyword “Napoleonic Friendship”)


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