Elissa D. Gelfand

  • Professor Emeritus of French
Elissa D. Gelfand

Elissa Gelfand's research interests encompass such topics as women writers of France and French-speaking countries, French feminist theory, representations of female criminality and creativity, and literary politics and social contestation. She is the author of two books, Imagination in Confinement: Women's Writing from French Prisons (Cornell UP, 1983) and French Feminist Criticism: Women, Language, and Literature (Garland, 1985), and numerous articles. Currently, she is examining the interwar period in France (1920s and 1930s), specifically the relations between ethnicity and gender in the works of French Jewish women writers. She is also studying representations of "women of a certain age" in works by Colette, Beauvoir, and Ernaux.

Gelfand brings her research interests into the classroom through such special-topic courses as: Mothers and Daughters; Childhood in French and Francophone Cultures and Literatures; Corporalités: Writing the Body in French; Lifeprints: The Ages of Women; Femmes, cultures, identités en France et dans le monde Francophone; and, Literature and Politics: Writing as Social Engagement.

In addition to teaching, Gelfand serves as a member of the editorial board of the journal Women in French Studies.

Elissa Gelfand, Dorothy Rooke McCulloch Professor of French, is a specialist in 20th-century French literature and culture. She is also a member of the the Romance Language and Literatures program faculty at Mount Holyoke College. Elissa began her career at the College in 1975 and has taught numerous courses on women writers of France and the French-speaking world, in addition to courses in Women's Studies. Some of the topics her courses have addressed are: mothers and daughters in literature; representations of female creativity; literary politics and social contestation; and, the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality in the construction of literary and cinematic heroines.

Her publications include: Imagination in Confinement: Women's Writing from French Prisons (Cornell UP, 1983) in which she explores the connections between female criminality and creativity; and, French Feminist Criticism: Women, Language, and Literature (Garland, 1985), an examination of theories of gender and textuality. Currently, she is investigating the relations between gender and ethnicity in the works of French Jewish women writers of the 1920s and 1930s, the interwar period in France.

In addition to her research stipend as Dorothy Rooke McCulloch Professor of French, Elissa has received several faculty research fellowships, Mellon fellowships, and faculty research grants. She delivered the remarks for a dinner held in honor of named chairholders and donors on May 7, 2005.

Areas of Expertise

Twentieth-century French literature and culture; comparative women's studies


  • Ph.D., A.M., Brown University
  • A.B., Barnard College