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Mary Beth Raycraft

Mary Beth Raycraft
Director of Undergraduate Studies in French

Senior Lecturer in French


Furman 206





Ph.D in French literature, New York University.
A.B. with Honors in Comparative literature,
Brown University, M.A.


Professional Biography

I began my study of French in high school and soon after had a chance to visit Paris on a class trip.  My fascination with the city, its history, and its literary and artistic representations continues to inspire both my teaching and research.  My interest in French history, culture, and civilization eventually led me to graduate school and to a dissertation on depictions of domestic architecture and interior decor in the novels of Gustave Flaubert.  I am particularly  intrigued by the relationship between literature and culture and use an interdisciplinary approach in the classroom.  


Before coming to Vanderbilt in 1997, I taught at numerous universities including Johns Hopkins, The College of Wooster, Stanford University, and UC Berkeley.  My teaching interests include 19th and 20th-century French literature and civilization, translation, and composition.  In addition, I regularly teach two sections of First Year Seminar, “Americans in Paris”and “Urban Tales: Adventures in 19th and 20th-century Paris.”   I enjoy working with students on their writing in both French and English and engaging in ongoing discussions about strategies for revision.   I like to vary activities in class, often incorporating audio visual and web materials and alternating between group work and full class discussion.  Recently, I have started incorporating interactive technology activities into my classes, including social networking and wikis.

Courses Taught

French 115:  FYS “Americans in Paris”

French 115:  FYS “Urban Tales”

French 201w: French Composition

French 212: Textes et Contextes

French 294A: Contes Urbains


My current research focuses on travel literature written by French women who visited the United States during the late 19th and early 20th-centuries.  I recently published an English translation of Madame Léon Grandin’s 1894 account of her stay in Chicago during the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Representative publications

Translation of Madame Léon Grandin’s A Parisienne in Chicago: Impressions of the World’s Columbian Exposition, University of Illinois Press, 2010.  Winner of 2010 Illinois State Historical Society Prize.

“Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie and the TGV: Developing a Course in Scientific French,” The French Review, Vol. 73, no. 5, April 2000, 882-98.

“Curiosity and Apprehension: French Visitors’ Reactions to African Americans during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.”  Illinois History Symposium, Springfield , IL, March 7-9, 2010.

“Exploring the New World: Marie Dugard’s Observations on American Women, Education and Culture” 34th Annual Colloquium of Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, October 16-18, 2008.

“Cinéma et histoire: la censure et la renaissance de “La Bataille d’Alger.” American Association of Teachers of French Convention, Milwaukee, WI, July 6-9, 2006.

“Viewing Paris from Abroad: A French Woman visits the World’s Columbian Expostion.” 30th Annual Colloquium of Nineteenth-Century French Studies Association, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, October 28-30, 2004.

“Diversité, foulards et conversations dans la France contemporaine.” American Association of Teachers of French Convention, Atlanta, GA, July 22-25, 2004.

“Cookbooks, Menus and Manners: Gastronomy in 19th-century French Culture.”  American Association of Teachers of French Convention, Paris, France, July 15-20, 2000.

E-mail: mb.raycraft@vanderbilt.edu