Professor of French and Italian
A native of Ramseur, NC, Bill Allen attended Wake Forest University where he participated in study away programs in Venice, Italy and Dijon, France. He completed his MA and doctoral work at UNC-CH, where his dissertation was on literary dandyism in the works of Théophile Gautier. Before coming to Furman in 1987, he also taught at the Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier, France, and Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.
Allen has often served the department as French coordinator; he has also served as recorder of the faculty and on numerous university, administrative and ad-hoc committees, including stints as chair of Appeals and Faculty Status. He was chair of MLL from 2007 to 2016.
In addition to diverse teaching duties which have included Italian, Humanities, and continuing education courses as well as French classes at all levels, Allen has been a frequent director or co-director of study away programs at UNC (Quebec, Montpellier), Dickinson (Toulouse) and Furman (Versailles, Summer China Experience, Slow Food Italy).
- Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- M.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- B.A., Wake Forest University
Our mission in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is to give our students the tools to communicate with, interpret and understand countries, cultures and people both beyond and within American borders: in short, to make of them cosmopolitan citizens of the world.
To reach this goal, I believe students need to engage in a dialectic process involving both hard work (usually through intensive, solitary, cognitive activity) and lived experience (often in memorable group settings engaging all the senses at once). (I sometimes sum this up as "Work Hard, Play Hard"). The former tends to occur in formal, campus-based classes; the latter in study away experiences, but neither form of learning is exclusive to one setting. The modern language teacher's goal should be to excite the curiosity of the students as they learn, read, and think; and then to bring them to spaces (classroom, café, museum, homestay, landscape, etc.) where they can confront new things beyond their previous experience and develop means to cope, communicate, and finally to understand. In this way they proceed toward discovery of world and self.
Allen's dissertation and subsequent work examined the figure of the dandy as a literary character and narrator in the works of Baudelaire, Balzac, Barbey d'Aurevilly and particularly Gautier. Other interests have included Gautier's travel literature, the poetic imagery of Victor Hugo, political perspectives in 19th century French writers, and 20th century French history. More recently, he has been a frequent presenter at regional conferences on the novels of Irène Némirovsky, Patrick Modiano and other authors associated with the Occupation period. In addition to other publications, numerous book reviews by Allen have appeared in French Review and other journals.