Department of French and Romance Philology  








Pierre Force



Professor of French and History

Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century French literature and history
517 Philosophy Hall
(212) 854-2500

Pierre Force received his academic training in France, where he was a fellow of the École normale supérieure. He took his BA in Classics (1979), doctorate in French (1987), and habilitation (1994) at the Sorbonne. He first came to the United States in 1984 as a lecturer at Yale University, and he joined the Columbia faculty in 1987. He works at the interface between the humanities and the social sciences and has published in the fields of early modern French literature, intellectual history, and social history. He is the author of Le Problème herméneutique chez Pascal (Paris: Vrin, 1989), Molière ou Le Prix des choses (Paris: Nathan, 1994), Self-Interest before Adam Smith (Cambridge University Press, 2003), and Wealth and Disaster (forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press). He chaired the French Department from 1997 to 2007 and is also affiliated with the Department of History. From 2011 to 2014 he served as Dean of Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He received the Columbia Distinguished Faculty award in 2005 and a Guggenheim fellowship in 2009. He has been a visiting professor at Princeton, Paris VII, Paris XIII, and the École normale supérieure. His teaching interests include French classicism and its reception, hermeneutics and rhetoric, historiography, the history of economic thought, and Atlantic history.

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Selected Bibliography


Wealth and Disaster. Atlantic Migrations from a Pyrenean Town in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016 (forthcoming).

Self-Interest before Adam Smith. A Genealogy of Economic Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003 (paperback, 2007), “Ideas in Context” series (296 pp.).

Molière ou le Prix des choses. Morale, économie et comédie, Paris: Nathan, 1994, “Le Texte à l’œuvre” series (264 pp.).

Le Problème herméneutique chez Pascal, Paris: Vrin, 1989, "Bibliothèque d’histoire de la philosophie" series (297 pp.).


“Skepticism and Political Economy: Smith, Hume, and Rousseau,” in Skepticism and Political Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, edited by John Christian Laursen and Gianni Paganini, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015, pp. 227-239.

“Différence temporelle, différence culturelle et style dans les Caractères de La Bruyère,” Dix-septième siècle 258 (2013), pp. 35-44.

“The House on Bayou Road: Atlantic Creole Networks in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” Journal of American History 100:1 (2013), pp. 21-45.

“Stratégies matrimoniales et émigration vers l’Amérique au 18e siècle: la maison Berrio de La Bastide Clairence,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 68:1 (2013), pp. 77-107 [“Eighteenth-Century Matrimonial Strategies and Emigration to the Americas: The House of Berrio in La Bastide Clairence,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales (English edition) 68:1 (2013), pp. 75-106].

 “The Teeth of Time: Pierre Hadot on Meaning and Misunderstanding in the History of Ideas”, History and Theory 50:1 (2011).

“Montaigne and the Coherence of Eclecticism”, Journal of the History of Ideas 70:4 (2009) pp. 523-544.

“Voltaire and the Necessity of Modern History”, Modern Intellectual History 6:3 (2009) pp. 457-484.

“First Principles in Translation: the Axiom of Self-Interest from Adam Smith to Jean-Baptiste Say”, History of Political Economy 38:2 (2006) pp. 319-338.

“Innovation as Spiritual Exercise: Montaigne and Pascal”, Journal of the History of Ideas 66:1 (2005) pp. 17-35.

“Pascal and Philosophical Method” in The Cambridge Companion to Pascal, edited by Nicholas Hammond, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 216-234.

“Géométrie, finesse et premiers principes chez Pascal”, Romance Quarterly 50:2 (2003) pp. 121-130.

“Un discours à pratiquer. Louis Marin, Pascal et Port-Royal”, Critique. Revue générale des publications françaises et étrangères 615-616 (August-September 1998) pp. 526-542.

“Beyond Metalanguage: Bathmology” in “After Roland Barthes”, University of Pennsylvania, April 1994, proceedings in Writing the Image after Roland Barthes, edited by Jean-Michel Rabaté, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997, pp. 187-195.

“Peinture et poésie dans le Télémaque de Fénelon”, Op. Cit. Revue de littératures française & comparée 3 (1994) pp. 65-71.

“Invention, disposition et mémoire dans les Pensées de Pascal”, Dix-septième siècle 181 (1993) pp. 701-716.

“Doute métaphysique et vérité romanesque dans La Princesse de Clèves et Zaïde”, Romanic Review 2 (1992) pp. 161-176.

“Figures impossibles”, Poétique 85 (1991) pp. 111-127.

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