Periods: Late Medieval and Early Modern
Languages: French, Italian, Spanish, English, Latin, Ancient Greek, Sanskrit
Alexander Brock’s dissertation looks at narratives of sensory delusion in late medieval and early modern comedy, with chapters on Boccaccio, Ben Jonson, and Molière. His dissertation is particularly interested in the ways in which these comedic works in prose and for the stage explore the power of others’ words to make us misunderstand our own sensations. In representing this power, these comedic works play with, serve as models for, and challenge theories of perception from Aristotle to Descartes, with implications both for psychology and for ethics. Alexander’s dissertation emphasizes in particular two story types that traveled to the Mediterranean world from Ancient South Asia. While tracing a history of theories of perception – from Aristotelian and Scholastic epistemology, which argues for the truth value of sensation, to Descartes’ skeptical doubting of all sense knowledge – Alexander’s dissertation thus also seeks to reconceptualize the borders of Western literature and philosophy.
Alexander has taught classes on premodern and on early modern world literature, as well as on Greek mythology in comparative contexts, at Baruch College and at Cooper Union in New York City. At Princeton, Alexander has served as an assistant instructor for courses on Shakespeare and on Dante, and has taught beginning and intermediate French language. He has taught several semesters in prison through the Princeton Prison Teaching Initiative.
Alexander received his B.A. in Comparative Literature summa cum laude from Princeton University and his Masters in “French Literature from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment” from the École normale supérieure in Paris as a scholarship recipient of their “sélection internationale.” Outside of the university, he has worked as an assistant editor at Archipelago Books, a not-for-profit literary press in Brooklyn devoted to literature in translation.