Warren F. Motte Jr., professor of French and comparative literature at CU-Boulder, has been named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms) by the government of France. This honorific distinction was given to Motte for his extensive efforts to promote French language and culture in the United States.
The honor came as a surprise, “out of the blue,” Motte says. “Rather, it came out of registered mail down my driveway … One of the nicer surprises I’ve ever gotten through registered mail; I thought it was a summons for jury duty.”
Motte specializes in contemporary French literature. “I’ve been interested in emerging French writers and emerging literature—writers that haven’t yet been elevated to canonical status,” he explains.
“I like to present them to a broader, critical public through publications such as articles and books.”
Motte has also helped get some French authors translated into English both at the Dalkey Archive Press and the University of Nebraska Press.
He earned a Ph.D. in French literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. He joined Department of French and Italian at CU-Boulder in 1987 and has been a full professor since 1991. Motte is a U.S. citizen, but his wife is from France, and his children are bilingual.
Some of the many books that Motte has authored include: “The Poetics of Experiment: A Study of the Work of Georges Perec” (1984), “Questioning Edmond Jabès” (1990), “Playtexts: Ludics in Contemporary Literature” (1995), “Small Worlds: Minimalism in Contemporary French Literature” (1999), “Fables of the Novel: French Fiction Since 1990” (2003), “Fiction Now: The French Novel in the Twenty-First Century” (2008), and the translator and editor of “Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature” (1986; rev. ed. 1998, rpt. 2007). His most recent book is “Mirror Gazing” (2014).
The Order of Academic Palms was originally founded in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte as a decoration to recognize important educators at the University of Paris. The scope of the honor has since expanded to include anyone who has contributed significantly to the “prestige of French culture” or who has “rendered eminent service to French education.”