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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 17, 2004

Thomas Named To Executive Committee Of Foreign Language Association

Downing A. Thomas, a professor in and chair of the University of Iowa Department of French and Italian, has been elected to the executive committee of the Association of Departments of Foreign Language (ADFL).

Established in 1969, the ADFL addresses the professional concerns of administrators from nearly 1,000 departments at two- and four-year colleges and universities. Among other activities, the association tracks enrollment trends and studies innovative pedagogical practices in U.S. colleges and universities, helping to shape the teaching and learning of languages and literature nationwide.

The UI Department of French and Italian is part of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Thomas' scholarship focuses primarily on early-modern French studies (from about 1600 to 1800), specifically in the areas of music and opera, theories of language and aesthetics. Music and opera are central to his first two books, both of which were published in series devoted to issues in musicology: "Aesthetics of Opera in the Ancien Régime: 1647-1785" (Cambridge University Press, 2002), and "Music and the Origins of Language: Theories from the French Enlightenment" (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

Reflection on language was also at the core of Thomas' first book, and is an area he has explored in several articles, most notably in an article on the philosopher Condillac and his critique of the naturalist Buffon, published in 2003 in a forum on dispute in Common Knowledge alongside a contribution by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. A preoccupation with aesthetics runs through all of his work up to the present, and is the specific focus of his latest book project in which he will examine the tension between the good (a moral value) and the fine (an aesthetic one) in early-modern France and England through the question of taste.

"Judgments of taste reveal much about our own conceptions of society and the individual, about what we do and do not share with others," Thomas says.

Thomas is currently editing, with Roberta Marvin, director of the UI International Programs Office of Research and Development, a cross-disciplinary volume of essays in opera studies titled "Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries in Musical Drama" (forthcoming from Ashgate), and he has had the opportunity to participate in symposia in conjunction with staged performances of operas in New York City, Berkeley and Iowa City.

He is a past recipient of a McMaster University/American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend and an American Council of Learned Societies international travel grant. He was recently elected to the executive committee of the Eighteenth-Century French Literature division and to the executive committee of the section on Opera as a Literary and Dramatic Form, both within the Modern Language Association.

Courses taught by Thomas range from advanced undergraduate language and literature to graduate seminars on issues in eighteenth-century studies, including a recent course on identity and otherness in Enlightenment fiction. He previously served as chair of the UI Department of French and Italian from 1999-2002 and has been teaching French at the UI since 1991.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,