Professor & Chair of the Department
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Hélène Visentin holds both Canadian and French citizenship. She earned a B.A. and an M.A. from the Université de Montréal and holds the title of Docteur de l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris 4).
Professor Visentin's research focuses on the history and the aesthetics of the performing arts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly urban and courtly spectacles. She has published several articles in scholarly journals and collective works, and she has presented lectures on her work at the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, the Académie de France à Rome, the Centre d'Études de la Renaissance à Tours, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Renaissance Center and the Society for Court Studies, among others. Her other publications include two critical editions of 17th century plays: La Descente d'Orphée aux enfers by Chapoton (Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2004) and Les Sosies by Rotrou (Société des Textes Français Modernes, 2005); a co-edited book titled L'Invraisemblance du pouvoir. Mises en scène de la souveraineté au XVIIe siècle (Schena Editore/Presses de l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 2005); and conference proceedings, with Nicolas Russell, titled French Ceremonial Entries in the Sixteenth Century: Event, Image, Text (Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2008). She is currently involved in a long-term research project on French royal entry ceremonies in the Renaissance (subsidized by the Council of Canada, 2002-08) and is working on a critical edition of a machine play by Pierre Corneille, Andromède (Éditions Classiques Garnier).
She recently has developed a keen interest in the field of Digital Humanities by creating a GIS mapping project on Paris to explore and study the complex and multilayered urban space of the City of Light in her course FRN 230: "Paris, a Multi-Layered City." Visentin is also involved in various online and blended learning initiatives at Smith and within the Five Colleges, and she is working on an online platform targeted to students heading to study in Paris (with Christiane Métral and Marie-Madeleine Charlier, Associate Director JYA Paris.)
She joined the Smith faculty in 1999 and teaches such courses as Advanced Grammar, Business French, French Intellectuals as Activists, and Literature and Culture in the early modern period.
Visentin directed the Smith JYA Program in Paris in 2006-07 and again in spring 2012; and the Smith JYA Program in Geneva in 2007-08.