French professor’s book set to publish in April

Lisa Herdman

Courtney Sullivan, professor of French, plans to publish her book called “The Evolution of the French Courtesan Novel: From De Chabrillan to Colette” by April.

Sullivan said that creating the book was a process that started from her dissertation. She was a lecturer in Paris, and around 1999 to 2000 is when the initial research for her book started.

Sullivan wanted to find women that had spoken for and represented prostitutes in the late 1800s, but her research indicated that most works were done by men posing as women.

“I had read the book ‘Nana’ by Emile Zola, and found that it wasn’t really written by a woman,” Sullivan said. “I wanted to see if any actual prostitutes or other women had written on the subject to justly represent women.”

In the first stages of her research, Sullivan wasn’t able to find many books that had been written by women over the subject. Around the 1800s many women were illiterate if they were not wealthy or had someone teach them to read. This left the realm of writing on prostitution mainly open to men.

Sullivan researched many different books written by a variety of authors and eventually found that multiple women had written on the subject of prostitution, even as a response to other books over the subject, and tied many of the authors together with intertextuality.

“I was out on sabbatical, near the end of one, and had made the discovery that the authors had either known each other or were responding to each other,” Sullivan said. “I had originally wanted to just add a few more chapters, but I realized that this would change my whole book.”

Sullivan said that multiple publishers turned her book down for publication, but she never gave up. She wants to encourage students to write about what they are passionate about, even if at first their idea is turned down.

Sullivan said that she had to make a few changes to her book that was suggested by publishers, but found that their suggestions truly helped her in the end.

“The publisher wanted me to talk about the book, ‘Nana,’ that I hated,” Sullivan said. “Ironically, the response enriched my text and my book became a response to his.”

Sullivan has been teaching at Washburn since 2003, and just recently became a full professor. She teaches courses including French Literature and French Civilization as well as Beginning French and Intermediate French. Sullivan said she wants to inspire students to study language and go abroad.

“My book could apply to any minority group wanting better representation,” Sullivan said. “I hope that no one is afraid to tackle these controversial topics.”