Aubrey Gabel

Aubrey Gabel

Aubrey Gabel (PhD, UC Berkeley 2017) is a specialist in 20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone literature, culture, and visual media (film and graphic novels). She has several peer-reviewed articles, critical reviews, and interviews published or forthcoming in journals such as Studies in Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Literature; SITES; Comparative Literature; French Politics, Culture, and Society; Contemporary French Civilization; Nineteenth-Century French Studies; H-France Imaginaires, and Theater Journal. She has also written for public-facing venues like Public Books, The Comics Journal, and The Los Angeles Review of Books and serves on the editorial board of Romanic Review.

At Columbia, Professor Gabel teaches Contemporary Civilization in the Core Curriculum, as well as undergraduate and graduate courses on 20th- and 21st-century literature, culture, and film. Recent course titles include, “Violence, Politics, and the Graphic Novel,” “Sex, Drugs, and Marxism,” and “Postwar French Cinema and Bad Taste.” Before moving to Columbia, she taught at UC Davis, UC Berkeley, CU Boulder, and Paris VII. She has received fellowships from the Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Berkeley Language Center, the Dartmouth Center for French Cultural Studies, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as well as a Lenfest Junior Faculty Development Grant. Outside of academia, Aubrey Gabel works as a freelance translator and interpreter, with interests in oral history.

Prof. Gabel is currently completing a manuscript, The Politics of Ludics: French Authors Playing Politics from the 1950s to the Present, on the representation of contemporary politics and history in ludic literature. Literary ludics, like constraint or procedural writing, approach writing like a game, placing conditions on the language or context of writing. But what could be further—or closer?—to politics than a writing game? The monograph juxtaposes an usual array of case studies, placing three generations of the well-known formalist literary group Oulipo—like Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, and Jacques Jouet—alongside writers who are not traditionally deemed to be ludic (or even writers!), like the lesbian activist-writer Monique Wittig and the ex-militant editor François Maspero. These authors, all of whom roughly belong to the same generation, which came of age politically during May ’68 and the Algerian War, deploy ludic or ludic-adjacent methods, like feminizing the French language or cannibalizing intertexts, representing the full spectrum of ludic practice. This transdisciplinary and transhistorical monograph employs mixed methods—including Bourdieusian sociological analysis, archival research, intellectual history, textual philology, and close readings—to examine how and why French authors turn to these ludic methods to grapple with diverse, and often violent, histories. These range from the rise and fall of French feminist and Third-Worldist groups, to the aftermath of international socialism, in the former Parisian Red Belt or in post-Yugoslavia Balkan states. The Politics of Ludics demonstrates that ludic methods serve a few distinct purposes: as a deflection strategy, or a posture or self-presentation, often understood as a means of sidestepping the demands of Sartrean commitment and reframing what it meant to be a “political” author, and as a coded speech, or a means of addressing history indirectly and (more) covertly, outside of the public sphere. Finally, literary ludics functioned as a kind of space travel, or structured movement through the spaces of local and international history.


Selected publications

Transported Memories: How ‘I remember’ Poetry Became an International Form,” Comparative Literature 75.4Dec 2023. 

What the ‘Pataphysicians Wore to the Revolution,” Contemporary French Civilization 48.3 (Fall 2023), 217-238. 

François Maspero, The Journalist: Multidirectional Activism,” French Politics, Culture, and Society, Volume 40, Issue 3 (Dec. 1, 2022).

The Case of the Dream Writer: Perec, Pontalis, and Dream Writing.” Studies in Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Literature. Vol. 45, Iss. 1, Article 27. (2021)

L’utopie serait-elle institutionnalisée?: Georges Perec at the Moulin d’Andé.” SITES Special Issue “Sous les pavés” Ed. Hannah Freed-Thall and Thangam Ravindranathan. Vol. 23 Iss. 2 (2019), pp. 171-9.

La force de l’ordre: Une ethno-graphique: Entretien avec Didier Fassin et Jake Raynal,” Contemporary French Civilization 48.2 (July 2023): 153-169.

Policing the City: An Ethno-graphic: interview with Didier Fassin and Jake Raynal,” Contemporary French Civilization 48.2 (July 2023): 171-187.

Finding Queer Joy in a Father’s Loss: Édouard Louis’s Who Killed My Father,” Theatre Journal, vol. 75, no. 2 (2023), p. 244-246.

Drawing Vulnerable Bodies: Reproductive Health and Abortion Comics,” H-France Imaginaires, June 13th, 2023.

“Not So Secret: Oulipo’s Open Secrecy.” L’Oulipo et la Seconde Guerre MondialeEd. Dominique Glynn and Jean-Michel Gouvard. Bordeaux: Presses universitaires de Bordeaux, 2023. 

Notes on Charles Johnson: Cartoonist, Radical,” The Comics Journal, Nov. 9th, 2022. 

Julie Doucet : How a Zine Author Went Canonical,” Los Angeles Review of Books, July 23rd, 2022. 

Guy Delisle: A Dad Cartoonist and World Traveler Returns to the Factory,” Public Books, Nov. 22nd, 2021.