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Nicolae Babuts

Nicolae Babuts

Nicolae Babuts

Professor Emeritus


Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics


Research and Teaching Interests

Professor Babuts has been doing research in Nineteenth-Century French literature and in the field of Cognitive approaches to literature. He has studied Baudelaire in particular but also Hugo, Mallarmé, and Flaubert. He has worked toward developing a cognitive theory of literature. The new and radical move in the theory is to install memory at the center of interpretation. In this new context, interpretation is guided by the concept of dynamic patterns as units of meaning, which are represented neither by words alone nor by theoretical or perceptual categories but by sentences in their capacity to unite language and perception. The concept of dynamic patterns is crucial to understanding how meaning is created to represent the world in memory.

Among the courses taught:

Nineteenth- Century French Poetry

Realism and Naturalism

Twentieth-Century French Theater

Baudelaire and Racine


PhD French, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1967)

MA French, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1963)

BA French and English, University of Toronto, Toronto (1957)

Membership in

Professional Societies: Modern Language Association


Assistant, Associate, and Professor of French (1967-1995), Syracuse University.

Director of the Syracuse University Program Abroad in Poitiers, France (Spring of 1968).

Teaching Fellow, French, University of Michigan (1963-67)


Literature and the Metaphoric Universe in the Mind. New Brunswick, USA and London, UK: Transaction Publishers, 2015.

Mimesis in a Cognitive Perspective: Mallarmé, Flaubert, and Eminescu. New Brunswick, USA and London, UK: Transaction Publishers, 2011.

Memory, Metaphors, and Meaning: Reading Literary Texts. New Brunswick, USA and London, UK: Transaction Publishers, 2009. Baudelaire: At the Limits and Beyond. Newark, USA and London, UK: University of Delaware Press-- Associated University Presses, 1997.

The Dynamics of the Metaphoric Field: A Cognitive View of Literature. Newark, USA and London, UK: University of Delaware Press--Associated University Presses, 1992.

Le Classicisme de la vision baudelairienne (thesis, published) Ann Arbor : U of Michigan, 1967 c. 1968.

Mircea Eliade: Myth, Religion, and History. Edited by Nicolae Babuts. New Brunswick (USA): Transaction Publishers, 2014.


Reviews of Mimesis in a Cognitive Perspective: Mallarmé, Flaubert, and Eminescu:

Kerr, C. B. of Vassar College, in Choice, November 2011.

Moscovici, Claudia “literature salon” (Michigan) July 24, 2011 (see


“Displaying impeccable sholarship, Babuts sheds new light on Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Hérodiade,” Gustave Flaubert’s “Hérodias,” and Mihai Eminescu’s “Luceafărul.” He also takes his readers on a fascinating voyage through centuries of artistic creation, from Aristotle and Virgil to Shakespeare, Proust, Baudrillard, Ricoeur, and Tarantino.” “Babuts skilfully lays the foundation for a cognitive approach to literature, proving that memory is crucial to the way humans process art. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.”-- (C. B. Kerr)

“If you enjoy reading literary theory and subtle analyses of nineteenth-century fiction and theory, then “Mimesis in a Cognitive Perspective: Mallarmé, Flaubert, and Eminescu” is the book for you.” “This book is a pleasure to read for any lover of the Romantic movement in literature and poetry.” (Claudia Moscovici)

Reviews of Memory, Metaphors, and Meaning: Reading Literary Texts:

Bloss C. R. of Georgia Gwineth College, in Choice 47.5, January 2010.

Kaplan Edward K. of Brandeis University in Symposium 64.4 (Oct-Dec 2010): 290-92.

Nash, Suzanne of Princeton University in Nineteenth-Century French Studies 39.1-2 (Fall-Winter 2010- 2011): 172-73.


“In short, readers derive meaning from a literary text by recognizing the metaphors of the narrative. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.” (C. R. Bloss)

“Nicolae Babuts has contributed another lucid and graceful book of interpretation and theory as he advances his critique of deconstructive and formalist conceptions of literature’s radical autonomy, its separation from the empirical world.” “The book’s turning point is Chapter 4, “The Allure of Myth” (79-99), which introduces extensive analyses of Homer and Virgil that gradually take over the book. I cannot do justice to the nuanced analyses in these chapters.” “His theory of creativity as memory combining units of meaning placed in a new context becomes convincing as the reader remembers fragments of her or his own readings and experience.” (Edward Kaplan)

“Nicolae Babuts’s latest work on the relationship of memory to creative expression and interpretation is an invaluable addition to the current research on cognitive approaches to literature being carried out by such influential scholars as Elaine Scarry, Michael Holquist, and Jonathan Gottschall.” Memory, Metaphors, and Meaning abounds in finely textured interpretations that demonstrate the power of literature to create meaning.” “The primal figure whose world extends beyond all known limits in Hughes’s “The Jaguar” is an eloquent metaphor for Babuts’s passionately held position that ‘poetry is freedom.’” (Suzanne Nash)

Reviews of Baudelaire: At the Limits and Beyond:

Hiddleston, J. A. of Exeter College, Oxford, in Nineteenth-Century French Studies 27.2-

3 (Spring-Summer 1999): 424-25.

Kaplan, Edward K. of Brandeis University, in Symposium 53.3 (Fall 1999): 189-91

Crampton, Susan F. of University of North Carolina, Wilmington, in French Review 74

(Feb. 2001): 580.

McGowan, J. D. of Illinois Wesleyan University, in Choice (July-August 1998): 1859.

Salines, Emily of Middlesex University, in Modern Language Review 96.3 (July 2001): 834-35.


--"One is impressed by the critical balance and intertextual dexterity of this eminently sane [cognitive] approach which is both modest and confident in the defense of its readings. Its strict fidelity to the texts makes it intolerant of ideologically driven interpretations originating elsewhere, and its sensitive response to the texts' mnemonic appeal confirms that poetry, like painting, not only springs from the memory of the poet but speaks directly to that of the reader." (Hiddleston 425)

--"This is an elegant and open-minded study of Baudelaire's dynamics as poet and thinker. Applying his cognitively based theory of poetic creation and literary interpretation, convincingly demonstrated in The Dynamics of the Metaphoric Field (1992), Nicolae Babuts locates and interprets 'dynamic patterns' repeated in major Baudelaire texts . . ." (Kaplan 189).

--"This excellent book takes its place among the distinguished studies of Baudelaire."

"Highly readable and penetrating, Baudelaire: At the Limits and Beyond deserves careful study for its persuasive contributions to theory and insightful, broadly applicable, practical criticism." (Kaplan 191)

--"Babuts provides a valuable resource for Baudelairean studies. He succeeds in incorporating previous scholarly studies on this nineteenth-century poet into his own analysis of the poet's effort to transcend the limits of the self." (Crampton 580)

--"This is a challenging and satisfying study; the jargon is penetrable by upper-division undergraduates as well as researchers and faculty." (McGowan 1859)

--"Babuts's cognitive approach proves to be most relevant to the close analysis of Baudelaire's texts. It sheds a new light on the intertextual readings and interpretations which form a large part of the book and give fresh, useful, interdisciplinary readings of some of Baudelaire's key texts. The close study and comparative analyses of selected poems brings scope to Babuts's readings (particularly enlightening in this respect are the accounts of 'Une Mort héroïque' and 'Le Voyage')." (Salines 835)

Articles & Poetry

"Baudelaire and the Identity of the Self." Mosaic, forthcoming in September of 2014.

"Baudelaire and Balzac: Echoes and Affinities." Philologica Yassyensia 7.2 (14) (2011): 293-307.

"Petru Cȃrdu in the Wake of Surrealism." Carmina Balcanica 4.2 (7) (2011): 13-28.

“Leopardi’s ‘L’Infinito’: A Cognitive View.” Symposium 60 (Summer 2006): 67-80.

"Reading Poetry: Metaphors as Instruments of Discovery." Symposium 57 (Winter

2004): 211-29.

"Signs and Reality: The Tiger Effect." Symposium 56 (Winter 2003): 179-95.

"'Mioriţa': A Romanian Ballad in a Homeric Perspective." Symposium 54 (Spring

2000): 3-15.

"Baudelaire's 'Le Voyage': The Dimension of Myth." Nineteenth-Century French Studies

25 (Spring-Summer 1997): 348-59.

"Baudelaire's 'Le Mauvais vitrier' and 'Mademoiselle Bistouri.'" Symposium 49 (Fall

1995): 79-89.

"Baudelaire in the Circle of Exiles: A study of 'Le Cygne.'" Nineteenth-Century French

Studies 22 (Fall-Winter 1993-1994): 123-38.

"Text: Origins and Reference." PMLA 107 (Jan. 1992): 65-77

"Flaubert: Meaning and Counter-Meaning." Symposium 40 (Winter 1986-87): 247-58.

"Hugo's La Fin de Satan: The Identity Shift." Symposium 35 (Summer 1981): 91-101.

"Baudelaire et les anges de Swedenborg." Romance Notes 21, no. 3 (Spring1981): 309-


"Baudelaire et J. G. F." Bulletin Baudelairien 14 (hiver 1979): 3-6.

"Structure and Meaning in Baudelairian Images of Immersion." Symposium 31 (Fall

1977): 185-95.

"Le Coucher du soleil romantique." Bulletin Baudelairien 6 (August 1970):12-17.

"Une Réminiscence de Musset dans 'Spleen LXXVIII.'" Bulletin Badelairien 3, 1

(1967): 22-23.

"Une Réexamination de la dette de Baudelaire envers Théophile Gautier." Revue des

Sciences humaines 127 (juillet-septembre 1967): 351-80.


“Lockerbie,” “Magic,” and “Mountain Lion.” Stone Canoe 6 (2012); online section at

“Sisyphus Contemplating the Way Down.” Blue Unicorn 31, 1 (October 2007): 28.

"Restaurant Valet Parking." Parnassus Literary Journal 28 (Fall-Winter 2004): 23.

"Bridgeway." Encore 19 (Spring-Summer 1985): 4

"Chercheuses d'infini." Encore19 (Spring-Summer 1985): 7.

"Leaving the Car to Be Serviced." Windless Orchard Issue 41 (Fall-Winter 1982-83): 45.

"Worries of War." Blue Unicorn 4 (Feb. 1981): 38.

"Along Erie Canal" and "Symphony No. 2." Syracuse Scholar 2 (Spring 1981): 49-51.

"The Guest Soloist." Poet Lore 75 (Summer 1980): 99.

"Symphony No. 1," "The Egg that Will Not Die," and "The Fundamental Parameter."

Poet Lore 73 (Fall 1978): 106-110.

Poetry Translations

Six Poems by Lucian Blaga:

"The Way of the Saint," "Eve," The Colt," "Our Legend," "At Watershed," and "Before a

Statue of Saint George." Mioriţa 7, no. 2 (1981): 93-102.

Four Poems by Lucian Blaga:

"From Your Hair," "At Dawn," "In the Great Passing," and "Paradise in Rags."

Modern Poetry in Translation No. 36 (Spring 1979): 22-23.

As second author with W. D. Snodgrass:

"Toma Alimos" A Romanian Folk Ballad. Oxford Quarterly Review 1 (Summer-

Autumn 1996): 59-67.

"If Boughs Tap at my Windowpane" ("Şi Dacă," by Mihai Eminescu). Tribuna 16 (15

May 1987): 10.

"Now the Songbirds" ("Somnoroase Păsărele," by Mihai Eminescu). In Mihai Eminescu.

Ed. Augustin Maissen. Cristallina, Switzerland: Revista Retoromontscha, 1975.

Book Reviews

Jean-Jacques Thomas and Steven Winspur. Poeticized Language: The Foundation of

Contemporary French Poetry. Symposium 56 (Summer 2002): 110-112.

Lilian R. Furst. All is True: The Claims and Strategies of Realist Fiction. Symposium 52

(Summer 1998): 122-123.

Claude Pichois and Jean Ziegler. Charles Baudelaire, nouvelle édition. Nineteenth-

Century French Studies 26 (Fall-Winter 1997-1998): 224-225.

Suzanne Nash, ed. Home and its Dislocations in Nineteenth-Century France.

Symposium 50 (Summer 1996): 135-136.

F. W. Leakey. Baudelaire: Les Fleurs du mal. Symposium 49 (Winter 1996): 307-309.

Norman N. Holland. The Critical I. Symposium 49 (Winter 1996): 310-312.

Edward K. Kaplan. Baudelaire's Prose Poems: The Esthetic, the Ethical, and the

Religious in the Parisian Prowler. Symposium 47 (Spring 1993): 76-78.

Allan H. Pasco. Balzacian Montage: Configuring La Comédie humaine. Symposium 46

(Winter 1993): 300-302.

F. W. Leakey. Baudelaire: Collected Essays, 1953-1988. Symposium 44 (Winter 1990-

1991): 310-311.

Hayden Carruth, trans. L'Après-midi d'un faune. By Mallarmé. Nineteenth-Century

French Studies 12-13 (Summer-Fall 1984): 195-97.

Charles Chadwick. Symbolism: The Critical Idiom. Symposium 29 (Spring 1975): 184-


Petre Ciureanu. Baudelaire in Romania. Symposium 27 (Summer 1973): 180-182.

Lectures & Papers

"Mimesis and Perception: A Cognitive View." The Humanities Project: Mimesis Now at the University of Rochester. 6 April 2012.

“Baudelaire and Balzac: Echoes of L’Enfant maudit in ‘L’Homme et la mer’ and ‘La Vie antérieure.’” 32nd Annual Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquium. Indiana University. Bloomington IN, 21 October, 2006.

"Creativity, Cognition, and Poetry." Hawaii International Conference on Arts and

Humanities." Honolulu, 13 January 2005.

"Mioriţa: Actor and Spectator." The 23rd Convention of the American Romanian

Academy of Arts and Sciences. University of Rochester. Rochester, NY,

8 August 1998.

"Mioriţa." Reading of the Romanian Ballad. The 23rd Convention of the American

Romanian Academy of Arts and Sciences. University of Rochester. Rochester,

NY, 7 August 1998.

"Baudelaire: A Question of Identity." Albert J. George Memorial Lecture. Syracuse

University, Syracuse, 24 April 1998.

"Dynamic Patterns as Units of Meaning: A Cognitive View." Nineteenth-Century

French Studies Colloquium (Twenty-second Annual Meeting). University of

Toronto, Toronto, 27 October 1996.

"Andromache and Baudelairean Exile in 'Le Cygne.'" A Department of Romance

Languages Lecture. Princeton University, Princeton, March 8, 1995.

"Mnemonic Potentials and Textual Depth." MLA Special Session: Cognitive

Approaches to Reading and Interpretation. Toronto, 30 December 1993.

"Mnemonic Strategies and Meaning." Faculty Colloquium. Syracuse University,

Syracuse, 20 November 1992.

"Madame Bovary: A Game of Love and Identity." Tristan and Isolde: Heroes and

Heroines as Lovers in Literature. State University of New York at Binghamton

Conference, Binghamton, May 4, 1990.

"Rhetoric and the Revolutionary Impulse in Musset's Lorenzaccio." The International

Conference on Representing Revolution. West Georgia College, Atlanta, 27

October 1989.

"Word Encoding Strategies." Language and Communications V. Syracuse University,

Syracuse, 9 April 1988.

"Flaubert: Meaning and Counter-Meaning." Albert J. George Memorial Lecture.

Syracuse University, Syracuse, 19 March 1986.

"The Dynamics of the Literary Image." The Humanities Symposium: Approaches to the

Study of Metaphor. Syracuse University, Syracuse, 12 April 1975.

"The French Decadents." A Lecture in a Series organized by students. Syracuse

University, Syracuse, 1973.

"Mihai Eminescu." A Lecture on the Romanian Poet. Romance Language Honor

Society, Syracuse University, Syracuse, 1969.

References to my work:

On the article, "Text: Origins and Reference"

Brown, Marshall J. of University of Washington in his Introduction to the Special Topic:

Theory of Literary History. PMLA 107 (January 1992):13-25.

--"[Babuts] combines the continuities of memory with the transgressions and the transcendence of self-expression or with the 'epiphanic moments' of metaphor" (19).

About the dissertation "Le Classicisme de la vision baudelairienne."

Pichois, Claude, ed. Oeuvres complètes. By Charles Baudelaire. 2 vols.

Paris: Gallimard, 1975-76.

In this critical edition of Baudelaire's works, Pichois devotes a paragraph to describe Babuts’s view:

"Dans sa thèse non publiée Nicolae Babuts conclut que Sonnet d'automne a été écrit par Baudelaire pour définir sa relation à Jeanne Duval. Le sonnet, comme la dédicace des Paradis artificiels, est symptomatique de la prédisposition de Baudelaire à s'identifier avec un modèle élu." 'In his unpublished dissertation, Nicolae Babuts concludes that "Sonnet d'automne" was written by Baudelaire to define his relationship with Jeanne Duval. The sonnet, like the dedication of Les Paradis artificiels, is symptomatic of Baudelaire's tendency to identify himself with a chosen model' (vol. 1, p. 946).

In connection with "Une Réexamination de la dette de Baudelaire envers Théophile Gautier."

Terrier, Philippe, ed. Théophile Gautier: Deux études. By Charles Baudelaire. Études

baudelairienne 11. Neuchâtel: À la Baconnière, 1985.

In the Introduction to this critical edition of Baudelaire's two studies of Gautier, Philippe Terrier discusses the interpretation of Baudelaire's debt to Gautier. At the end of his summary, he writes: "Et Babuts de conclure également, sur la foi de la dédicace des Fleurs du Mal, que Baudelaire admirait sincèrement son maître en dépit des critiques formulées ça et là contre lui" 'And Babuts concludes also, on the strength of the dedication of Les Fleurs du mal [to Gautier], that Baudelaire sincerely admired his master in spite of critical remarks made from time to time against him' (p. 17).

Other References

Acquisto, Joseph. “Digesting Les Fleurs du mal.Nineteenth-Century French Studies 37.1-2 (Fall-Winter 2008): 30-41. He refers to the analysis of "À celle qui est trop gaie" in Baudelaire.

Aracil, Asuncion Pradas. "Some tools for the analysis of metaphorical and symbolic language in the press for translation." Actes del II Congrés Internacional sobre Traducció, UAB. (257-265). On p. 259, Aracil quotes from The Dynamics, about reading difficulty.

Collins, Marsha Suzan. The Soledades, Gongora’s Masque of the Imagination. U of Misouri P, 2002. Mentions Babuts's view that literary creation requires both linguistic and nonlinguistic sources.

Columbus, Claudette. “Map, Metaphor, Topos, and Toponym: Some Andean Instances.” CLAG: Yearbook 20 (1994): 9-20. On p. 14 quotes from The Dynamics of the Metaphoric Field.

Donaldson-Evans, Mary. "A Pox on Love." Symposium 44 (Spring 1990): 25n 2.

Reference to "Flaubert Meaning and Counter-Meaning.”

Eisenhut, Johanes. "Kognitive Linguistik in der Literatur wissenschaft." (Lizentiatsarbeit at the University of Freiburg, 1997-98). Quotes from Dynamics of the Metaphoric Field, about the encoding Specificity principle. See also section "Idealized Cognitive Model" about firing patterns. <>

Giaimo, Genie. "Psychological Diffusions: The Cognitive Turn in Alison Bechdel's Are You my Mother?" Home vol. 2 (2013). Web. Giaimo writes: "by introducing the research and methods of cognitive neuroscience to the humanistic arts literary critics 'can illuminate the processes underpinning the construction and production of life narrative and its adaptive qualities" In the note 7, Giaimo mentions: Elaine Scarry, Alan Richardson, Lisa Zunshine, Monika Fludernik, Paul John Eakin, and Nicolae Babuts.

Gilkison, Jean. “From Taboos to Transgressions: Textual Strategies in Woman-authored Spanish Erotic Fiction.” Modern Language Review 94.3 (July 1999): 718-30. In notes 10 and 11, quotes from The Dynamics of the Metaphoric Field.