Todd Reeser

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline Cultural Studies
Professor of French, University of Pittsburgh

Research project

Transgender France: Universalism and Sexual Subjectivity


In France, the omnipresent principle of universalism means that legally a citizen is defined as a citizen first and only secondly as a member of a “particular” identitarian or communitarian category (e.g. Muslim, woman, homosexual). As a major element of national identity, French universalism has been widely studied and cited, often with respect to specific categories such as Jews, women, homosexuals, and Muslims. Extending the question of the relation between universalism and identity into uncharted territory, my book project Transgender France: Universalism and Sexual Subjectivity makes two historically-based arguments about the French context: that universalism has defined the representation of transgender subjects since the inception of the category “transsexualité” in the 1950s up until today; that trans representation has mediated but also critiqued French universalism more broadly, revealing an otherwise unstated assumption of universalism, namely its biopolitical foundation in the idea of an inviolable and stably gendered body. Over the course of seven book chapters, I study how this relationship is articulated “officially,” especially in medical, psychoanalytic, and legal discourse, but also in more popular sources (television, film, documentary, news, tabloid journalism, literature, theatre, autobiography) through contextualized close readings of these texts. The categories under the transgender umbrella are not always defined on their own terms, but due to their perceived ambiguity, are made to intersect with—and thus to rely on—constructs of more legible categories such as Jews, children, and black and Arab colonial subjects. As a result, an important element of the project is to study the ways in which transgender is defined intersectionally, relying on pre-existing assumptions of French universalism’s relations to other kinds of subjects. 


This deeply interdisciplinary project will appeal to readers in both gender studies and French studies, as well as readers in media/film studies, communications, literature, and the history of medicine. It will also serve as an especially important case study in how transgender and nation-state relate broadly. Transgender France will help correct the focus on Anglophone contexts in the burgeoning field of transgender studies and help open up much-needed transnational and transatlantic conversations on gender.




Todd Reeser is Professor of French & Director of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a PhD in French from the University of Michigan.


Todd Reeser's main research areas are gender and sexuality studies, critical/gender theory, masculinities, French and comparative renaissance studies, and French cultural studies. With his work lying at the intersection of French and gender/sexuality studies, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on gender/sexuality in his home department (French and Italian) and in the GSWS Program. He believes that gender studies and French studies have much to say to each other.


Selected publications


Symphorien Champier: The Ship of Virtuous Ladies, (translation &  edition), Center for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, Toronto, 2018.


Setting Plato Straight: Translating Ancient Sexuality in the Renaissance, University of Chicago Press, Chicago/London, 2016. 


Masculinities in Theory: an introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, 2010.  


Moderating Masculinity in Early Modern Culture, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2006. 


Transgender France, (ed.), Esprit Créateur [Special Issue], vol. 53,  2013.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Art History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Geography
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Humanities and Social Sciences
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Political Science