Edward Baron Turk


Turk’s writings on the arts have appeared in such mainstream publications as Architectural Digest, American Film, Film Quarterly, and the San Francisco Chronicle.   His scholarly articles have been published in numerous academic journals, including Philosophy and Rhetoric, Cinema Journal, Literature/Film Quarterly, Camera Obscura, Iris, The French Review,and Modern Language Studies

For many years he was the Assistant Editor for film at The French Review, the scholarly journal of the American Association of Teachers of French.  From 2006 through 2013, he wrote in-depth chronicles of the Avignon Theatre Festival for each October issue The French Review.

Turk’s approach to criticism is humanistic, grounded in a commitment to the value of deep personal empathy with creative artists and their imaginative worlds.  It is also interdisciplinary, drawing variously on such fields as psychoanalytic theory, cultural theory, gender and sexuality studies, and celebrity studies.  Uniting all of Turk’s work is his critique of established distinctions between “popular” and “high” art.

Turk is the author of four books:

Baroque Fiction-Making: A Study of Gomberville’s Polexandre.  Chapel Hill: North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, 1978.  166 pp.  A revision of Turk’s doctoral dissertation, this book examined one of the most popular early seventeenth-century adventure novels (which first appeared in serial form, and ran to nearly 4,000 pages) and explored the links between narrative space and early modern cartography.  “Turk’s special talent,” wrote Jean Alter in French Forum, “is to point to the modernity and richness of a narrative that anticipates many aspects of twentieth-century fiction.”

Child of Paradise: Marcel Carné and the Golden Age of French Cinema.  Cambridge, Mass., and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1989.  495 pp. + xi.  In this critical biography of the French film director (whose works include Le jour se lève [Daybreak, 1939], Les enfants du paradis [Children of Paradise, 1945], Les tricheurs [The Cheaters, 1958], etc.), Turk examined the impact of Carné’s homosexuality on both his creative vision and on the critical esteem he garnered (or was denied) by film history’s gate-keepers; and the moral and political complexities of his having directed two exceptionally spectacular films (Les visiteurs du soir [The Devil’s Envoys, 1942] and Les enfants du paradis [Children of Paradise, 1945) during the German occupation of France.  Reviewing the book in the New York Times Book Review, Peter Biskind wrote that “Turk does a marvelous job integrating the personal, political, and esthetic aspects of Carné’s films to present a comprehensive picture of this important director’s work.”  A French-language edition, translated by Noël Burch and with a forward by Geneviève Sellier, appeared from L’Harmattan (Paris) in 2002.

Hollywood Diva: A Biography of Jeanette MacDonald Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998.  467 pp. + xix.  This comprehensive appraisal of Hollywood’s first great singer-actress emphasized MacDonald’s genius for bridging popular and “highbrow” musical culture.  “A provocative, entertaining, and authoritative book” that “sets a new standard for excellence,” wrote Emily Wortis Leider in the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

French Theatre Today: The View from New York, Paris, and Avignon.  Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2011.  387 pp. + xxix.  A blend of personal memoir and contemporary chronicle with intellectual and cultural analysis, this book is an in-depth introduction to major currents of French stage creation in the first decade of the twenty-first century, ranging from popular mass entertainments to the most boldly experimental.  “Few will fail to be inspired,” wrote Julia Prest in the Times Literary Supplement (London), “by the wealth of material [Turk] describes.”