April 6, 2004
French Professor Brigitte Cazelles dies at 60
By Ray Delgado
French Professor Emerita Brigitte Cazelles died Jan. 29 in Santa Barbara after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 60.
Cazelles taught French and French literature for 26 years at Stanford and retired at the end of the last academic year as her cancer advanced. Robert Harrison, chair of the Department of French and Italian, said Cazelles had been diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago and that it had been in remission for more than a year when it returned early last year and spread throughout her body.
Harrison said Cazelles was one of the most popular professors in the department and would be missed by faculty, staff and students. She helped to develop over a dozen new courses in the department and taught many classes ranging from elementary French to graduate seminars in medieval literature.
"She was delightful and she was a very popular teacher," Harrison said. "Her course on female saints sometimes drew as many as 200 or 300 students. Her death is a big loss for the department."
Cazelles kicked off the Award-Winning Teachers on Teaching lecture series in 1996 and said she was surprised at how popular her course on female saints had become after it was designated as meeting the distribution requirement for gender studies.
"I did not believe for one minute that I had suddenly, by some miracle, become popular, or that sanctity was suddenly a cool subject," Cazelles said. "But I soon discovered that what the audience had in common was a search for values which they associated with sanctity."
Born in Morocco, Cazelles received her undergraduate degree at the Sorbonne in Paris. She joined the faculty at Stanford in 1977, two years after she received her doctorate in French from the University of California-Riverside. She received the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1980 and again in 1996. She also received the Bing Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1994.
Cazelles served as director of French Undergraduate Studies from 1978 to 1986 and from 1992 to 1998. She directed the Stanford Program in Paris in 1984-85 and was a faculty member in residence in 1995-96. She was a faculty adviser at the Maison FranÃ§aise for four years and a three-time member of the Overseas Advisory Committee.
Cazelles was director of French Graduate Studies in 1986-87 and director of Graduate Studies, French and Italian Department, in 2000-01.
Cazelles is the author or editor of six books, including The Unholy Grail: A Social Reading of ChrÃ©tien de Troyes's Conte du Graal and The Lady as Saint: A Collection of French Hagiographic Romances of the 13th Century. Her research focused on the anthropological significance of religious and secular perfection in the Old French tradition.