Jeffrey M. Thomas

PhD student, French

Faculty advisor: Florence Vatan


Black and white illustration of a large group of women wearing funeral shrouds gathered around a corpse
Corsican women gathered around a corpse singing a voceri, a lamentation known for its extreme pitches and tones. (Image provided by Jeffrey Thomas)

Through his research on modern French literature, Jeffrey M. Thomas speaks to the impact of storytelling and literature on cultural identity. Thomas is a PhD student in French whose research focuses on literature about and from Corsica, specifically from the 19th and 21st centuries.

His dissertation explores the origin of literary stereotypes of Corsican culture such as banditry, vendetta, and reverence for death, in early Romanic literature from the 1820s through the 1840s. Then, he ties this to the ways contemporary Corsican authors reappropriate these images to subvert them.

“I am in a unique position as an outsider to both Corsican culture and French culture, which is advantageous to appreciate the nuance of competing perspectives,” Thomas said.

In addition to his dissertation project, Thomas also explores his passion for Gustave Flaubert’s work. Through studying Flaubert’s writing process and drafts of pre-publication materials – a method known as genetic criticism – he seeks to understand how Flaubert’s novels and characters come to life. He has published articles in French on the subject.

To support his work, Thomas has received a Chancellor’s Fellowship, a Mellon-Wisconsin Fellowship supporting his dissertation, and numerous conference and research travel grants.

“The numerous graduate fellowships I have been lucky to obtain have contributed not only the time needed to write, read, and research, but also to travel to the places I read about in my work, to purchase materials, and make institutional connections through conference presentations,” he said.

“My sincerest thanks to your support of young scholars who in trying times forge their own paths in research and writing,” Thomas added. “This has been the most important experience of my life.”