Born and educated in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Denise Rochat earned her Ph.D. in French literature from Brown University. She joined the faculty of Smith College in 1981.
Until her retirement, Professor Rochat taught French language at all levels, as well as literature and culture from the Middle Ages to contemporary French and Francophone fiction and cinema, with special emphasis on the 19th- and 20th-century French novel, Quebec literature and the development of the short story as a genre. She directed the Smith Junior Study Abroad Program in Paris in 2001-02 and 2004-05; and in Geneva in 1989-90, 1994-95 and 2013-14. She still offers occasional courses in French language, and provides guidance on French diction to singers.
Rochat's scholarly work focuses on poets and writers from France, Switzerland and Quebec. Her essays on René Char, Philippe Jaccottet, Gustave Roud, Corinna Bille, Anne Hébert, Hubert Aquin and Monique Proulx have appeared in journals in the United States, Canada and Europe. Her most recent article (2014) examines the use of fairy tales in a short story by Swiss author Corinna Bille.
Rochat is also the author of Contrastes, grammaire du français courant (Pearson/Prentice Hall 2009), a French grammar textbook which uses contrasting examples to underline the syntactical differences between French and English. The accompanying Workbook for Contrastes (Pearson/Prentice Hall 2009) is now available in a 2014 updated online interactive version.