Born and educated in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Denise Rochat earned her Ph.D. in French literature from Brown University and joined the faculty of Smith College in 1981.
Until her retirement in 2007, 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 also directed the Smith Junior Year Program in Paris in 2001-02 and 2004-05 and the Smith Junior Year Abroad Program in Geneva in 1989-90, 1994-95 and 2013-14. Since 2007, she has offered occasional courses in literature and language, and continues to provide guidance on French diction to professional and student singers.
Rochat is the author of Contrastes, grammaire du français courant (Pearson/Prentice Hall 2009), a French grammar textbook, now in a 2nd augmented edition, which uses contrasting examples to underline the syntactical differences between French and English. Her accompanying Workbook for Contrastes (Pearson/Prentice Hall 2009), written with the participation of Catherine Bloom, also in a 2nd augmented edition, is available both in paper and in an online interactive version.
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 latest article examines the ways in which Swiss author Corinna Bille reworks certain fairy tales' elements into one of her short stories. She also hopes to translate some of Bille's poetry into English.