Fellow of the Volkswagen Stiftung and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
September 2019–May 2021
Autobiography in Early Modern France: 1450–1650
Nicolae Virastau’s research project examines the appearance in print of the first French autobiographical works during the early modern period. The study challenges the persistent ideas of the Renaissance “discovery of the individual,” and of self-writing as a privileged form of individual self-assertion. It shows the crucial importance of the family, and of professional editors in the creation of the autobiographical works ranging from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-seventeenth century. By studying the interplay between manuscript tradition and book culture in the earliest forms of self-writing in France, the research promises to nuance some common notions about the private and public nature of early modern self-writing. It shows the artificial character of the distinction between high literary autobiographical works such as the memoirs of political men printed for a wide audience, and the life-writing of ordinary people present in manuscript form in account books, family books, and memory aids. The objective of the research project is to create a more inclusive and non-teleological history of early modern autobiography, free from modern normative limitations.
Nicolae Virastau holds a PhD in French and Romance Philology. He is also interested in the history of astronomy, calendar reform, world chronologies, and early modern global history. His essays appeared in Isis, Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et de Renaissance, and in Fabula.