In Memoriam: Barbara C. Bowen, 1937-2019

Barbara Bowen, a professor of French emerita at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, died late last month at her home in Nashville. She was 82 years old and had suffered from lymphoma.

A native of the United Kingdom, Bowen became interested in French at the age of 10. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Oxford and went on to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Paris.

After teaching at the University of Illinois, Dr. Bowen came to Vanderbilt in 1987 as a full professor and chair of the department of French and Italian. She was the first woman in history to chair an academic department in Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science.

Among Professor Bowen’s research interests were Francois Rabelais and 16th-century French literature, French comic theatre, European Renaissance humor, and Renaissance art history. She traced the history of French farce and satire in literature and drama in some of her works. Dr. Bowen was the author of five major books, including Enter Rabelais, Laughing (Vanderbilt University Press, 1998) and Humor and Humanism in the Renaissance (Routledge, 2004), an anthology of her articles.

Dr. Bowen taught graduate seminars in French and comparative literature and a variety of undergraduate courses ranging from “Renaissance Utopias” to “The Classic French Comic Book.” In addition to her term as department chair, she served as director of graduate studies, organized the French poetry reading competition, and frequently directed the annual French play.


Filed Under: In Memoriam


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