French and Italian

Administrative Assistant:
Blanche Villar

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-5257
Fax: (440) 775-6888

Peters Hall 301
50 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, Ohio, 44074

Matthew Senior

Matthew Senior

Professor of French

Contact Information


Peters 401
(440) 775-8186

Matthew Senior

Matthew Senior

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., Yale University, 1990
  • Licence ├Ęs Lettres, La Sorbonne, Paris IV, 1978
  • B.A., University of Kansas, 1976

My current research and teaching interests focus on representations of the natural world in early modern France. In work on zoos, medical and religious practices, literature, and philosophy, I have been studying a major shift in knowledge and sensibilities towards nature during the period 1500-1800, as a Renaissance paradigm of relatedness to nature and microcosm was replaced by a mechanistic, Cartesian world view. My present research project is entitled “The Animal Witness,” a study of the ways in which humans share vision and knowledge with animals during the early modern period in art, literature, and philosophy, using animals as witnesses, and sometimes as surrogates, to define themselves as humans. I find that many of the debates and experiments that I study in the early modern period have echoes and returns in contemporary experience, as subjects such as cloning, artificial life, and radical attempts to live close to the earth or in the company of  animals receive increasing media attention.