Professor of French and Director of the School of World Languages and Cultures

Joseph Acquisto came to UVM in 2003 after receiving the Ph.D. from Yale University. He specializes in nineteenth and twentieth-century French literature, with particular emphasis on lyric poetry and the novel. His research interests include the relations between music and literature, the notion of modernity in intellectual history and the arts, and philosophical approaches to poetry.

His teaching focuses on modern French literature and intermediate and advanced language courses. He frequently teaches interdisciplinary seminars in the Honors College on topics including modernity and modernism in philosophy, critical theory, and the arts.

He is the author of articles on Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Gide, Proust, Cioran, Huysmans, Vigny, and Jaccottet, among others, and co-editor of a double issue of Romance Studies entitled The Cultural Currency of Nineteenth-Century French Poetry.

His first book, French Symbolist Poetry and the Idea of Music (Ashgate, 2006), argues that music, as theorized rather than performed or heard, serves as a privileged mobile space of poetic creation and dialogue for poets from 1850-1930. The second, Crusoes and Other Castaways in Modern French Literature: Solitary Adventures (University of Delaware Press, 2012), demonstrates how the Robinson Crusoe myth becomes a vehicle for exploration of larger questions about the reception of texts, modes of reading, and the relationship between popular and serious literary traditions.  An edited volume, Thinking Poetry: Philosophical Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) explores relations between contemporary continental philosophy and literature.

His book, The Fall Out of Redemption: Writing and Thinking Beyond Salvation in Baudelaire, Cioran, Fondane, Agamben, and Nancy (Bloomsbury, 2015), claims that Baudelaire is a key instigator of a modern tradition of writing that attempts to relinquish the logic of redemption and to think beyond any theological, esthetic, or political salvation.

Proust, Music, and Meaning (2017) articulates how notions of "modern" listening and absolute music inform the creation of literary meaning in Proust and allow us to measure the distance between what the novel says and what it does. 

Poetry’s Knowing Ignorance (2019) examines the role of productive ignorance in defining poetry and its relation to subjectivity and community in nineteenth and twentieth-century French writings on poetry.

Living Well with Pessimism in Nineteenth-Century France (2021), traces the esthetic, ethical, and political dimensions of the debate on pessimism in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.

Reading Baudelaire with Adorno: Dissonance, Subjectivity, Transcendence (2023) reads Baudelairean duality through the lens of dissonance and in dialogue with the esthetic theory of Theodor Adorno, arguing that the figure of the subject as a  “dissonant chord” provides a gateway to Baudelaire’s reconfiguration of subjectivity and objectivity in both esthetic and epistemological terms. 

His latest book, Thought as Experience: Bataille, Cioran, Rosset, is under contract.   




Reading Baudelaire with Adorno: Dissonance, Subjectivity, Transcendence. New York: Bloomsbury,  2023.

Living Well with Pessimism in Nineteenth-Century France. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021

Poetry's Knowing Ignorance. New York: Bloomsbury, 2019.

Proust, Music, and Meaning: Theories and Practices of Listening in the Recherche. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

The Fall Out of Redemption: Writing and Thinking Beyond Salvation in Baudelaire, Cioran, Fondane, Agamben, and Nancy.  New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. Paperback edition 2016.

Poets as Readers in Nineteenth-Century France: Critical Reflections, co-edited volume with Adrianna M. Paliyenko and Catherine Witt.  London: Institute of Modern Languages Research, 2015.

Thinking Poetry: Philosophical Approaches to Nineteenth-Century French Poetry, edited volume.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 

Crusoes and Other Castaways in Modern French Literature: Solitary Adventures. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2012. Paperback edition 2014.

French Symbolist Poetry and the Idea of Music. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.


The Cultural Currency of Nineteenth-Century French Poetry, a special double issue of Romance Studies (26:3-4, July/November 2008) co-edited and prefaced with Adrianna M. Paliyenko 


“On Listening and Failure : Roger Laporte with Marcel Proust,” forthcoming in Partial Answers.

“Subjectivité et transcendance dans le dernier Crépuscule du soir,” forthcoming in Remate de Males, special issue on Baudelaire, 2022.

“De l’impossibilité de l’échec chez Emil Cioran,” in Aurélien Demars and Mihaela-Gentiana Stanisor, eds., Cioran : Archives paradoxales - nouvelles approches critiques , tome VI (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2022), 83-94.

“The Dissonance of Modernity: On Baudelaire and Adorno,” in British Journal of Aesthetics  62: 1 (January 2022), 101-14.

“Enterrer le néant: Une poétique de l’attente dans Renouveau de Stéphane Mallarmé” in Aurélie Foglia et al., eds. « Une transparence du regard adéquat » : Mélanges en l’honneur de Bertrand Marchal (Editions Hermann, forthcoming 2022).

“Pessimism, Narrative, and Meaning in Henry Céard’s Une belle journée,” in Dix-Neuf 24: 1 (2020), 1-15.

“Listening, Touching, Meaning: On Translating Musical Experience, Answering the Call of Art, the ‘Good Listener,’ and Aesthetic Subjectivity in Baudelaire and Proust,” Music and Letters 100: 4 (November 2019), 597-614.

“Styles of Life, Poéthique, and Irony in Charles Baudelaire,” in Nineteenth-Century French Studies 48: 1-2 (Fall-Winter 2019-2020), 114-29.
 “On Metaphysics and the Political: a Polemics of Reading Baudelaire in the 1930s,” in Nottingham French Studies 58:2 (2019), 249-59. 

“Entre Rimbaud et Bataille: Le salut, le savoir et  l’impossible renoncement à la poésie dans Une saison en enfer,” in Parade sauvage 27 (2016), 131-44.

 “Intonation, Interpretation, and Meaning in Mallarmé’s ‘Petit Air II,’” in Thinking Verse 5 (2015): 149-171.

“On Ernest Seillière, Benjamin Fondane, ‘Naturist Mysticism’, and the Dangers of Baudelaire,” in Comparative Critical Studies 12:3 (2015), 303-18.

“Gautier on Baudelaire: Lessons from Hawthorne” in Poets as Readers in Nineteenth-Century France: Critical Reflections (London: Institute of Modern Languages Research, 2015), 113-30.

“Saving Creation: Agamben and Baudelaire, the Poet and the Critic,” in L’Esprit Créateur 54:3 (Fall 2014), 53-65.

 “Performing the Ineffable: Poem, Gesture, and Performance in Debussy’s Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé,” in Dix-Neuf 17:1 (April 2013), 90-103. 

 “On Artistic Form and the Spiritual: Mallarmé, Schönberg, and Kandinksy on Poetry, Mystery, and Music,” in Thinking Verse 2 (2012), 68-87.

“Listening to Silence in Pascal Quignard’s Vie secrète,” in L’Esprit Créateur 52: 1 (Spring 2012), 83-95. 

“Vivre le désappointement : une lecture cioranienne de l’épisode de la Berma,” forthcoming in Vincent Ferré and Karen Hadded-Wotling, eds.,  Proust : Dialogues critiques (Presses Universitaires de Rennes).

“Cross-referencing Bowie: Layers and Networks in Mallarmé and Proust” in Gill Rye and Naomi Segal, eds., ‘When familiar meanings dissolve…’: Essays in Memory of Malcolm Bowie (1943-2007) (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011), 135-50.  

“The Place of Poetry: Nature, Nostalgia, and Modernity in Jaccottet’s Poetics,” in Modern Language Review 105: 3 (July 2010), 679-694.

 “Erasing Collaboration: The Case of André Gill and Louis de Gramont” in Seth Whidden, ed., Models of Collaboration in Nineteenth-Century French Literature (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009), 91-105.

“Reading Echoes in Baudelaire: Between Philosophic and Genetic Approaches” in Romance Studies 26: 4 (November 2008), 286-296.

 “La musique du désir et de la pureté: Gide face à Chopin” in Bulletin des Amis d’André Gide 157 (January 2008), 19-32.

“The Decadent Writer as Collector and Flâneur: On Intertextual Networks and Literary Spaces in Huysmans” in French Forum 32: 3 (Fall 2007), 65-80.

“Reigniting Vigny: Fire, Transformation, and Modernity in His Lyric Poetry” in Symposium 61: 2 (Summer 2007), 99-116.

“On Naturalist Vice: The Strange Case of Charlot s’amuse” in Excavatio 21: 1-2 (2006), 36-47.

“‘Sowing some roses on the thorns of life’: Desire, Nature, Interpretation, and Judgment in Sade and Baudelaire” in Romance Studies 24: 1 (March 2006), 15-27.

 “Between Stéphane Mallarmé and René Ghil: The Impossible Desire for Poetry” in French Forum 29: 3 (Fall 2004), 27-41. 

“Medieval Monsters: Creating Past and Present in Zola and Huysmans,” in Excavatio 19: 1-2 (2004), 236-250.

“Uprooting the Lyric: Baudelaire in Wagner’s Forests” in Nineteenth-Century French Studies 32: 3-4 (Spring-Summer 2004), 223-237. 


Awards and Recognition

University Scholar 2020-2021

Professor Joseph Acquisto

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Nineteenth and twentieth-century poetry and the novel; relations between music and literature; modernity and modernism; Baudelaire; Mallarmé; Proust; Cioran


  • Ph.D., Department of French (2003), Yale University


  • (802) 656-4845
  • (802) 656-3196
Office Location:

517 Waterman

Courses Taught

  • FREN 051: Intermediate Reading and Conversation I
  • FREN 101: The Writing Workshop
  • FREN 107: Focus on Oral Expression
  • FREN 141: French Literature in Context I
  • FREN 142: French Literature in Context II
  • FREN 265: Romanticism and Symbolism
  • FREN 269: La Belle Epoque
  • FREN 270: Lyric Poetry: Harmony and Crisis
  • FREN 295: Advanced Special Topics: Baudelaire and Flaubert
  • HCOL 085: First Year Seminar: The Pursuit of Knowledge
  • HCOL 086: First Year Seminar: D2: Thinking and Acting
  • HCOL 086: First Year Seminar: Universities and Vocation
  • WLIT 095: Special Topics: The Birth and Death of Modernity
  • WLIT 111: French Literature in Translation: Paris in Modern French Literature