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Along the way she met Wallace Cooper, the man who would become her husband, in should we be surprised? Her success in finding an English teaching position so quickly was all the more remarkable when one considers that at the time there was a distinct preference in France for British English. It was during that year in Paris that Barbara and Wally were married and a lifelong partnership was forged.
Back on campus at Madison, Barbara continued work on her Ph. Courses in French drama—not merely of the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, which continue to be part of the core curricula of most graduate programs, but other periods as well—were popular at the time, and Barbara, having developed a particular fondness for nineteenth-century theatre, chose this area for her Ph. After completing her Ph. When a tenure-track position opened up at the University of New Hampshire in , she applied for it and was hired. And this time she stayed put.
Throughout her career, Barbara has been fiercely faithful to her chosen field, working tirelessly to stimulate interest in nineteenth-century French theatre. She notes ruefully that early in the s, with the growing importance of modern French literary theory, nineteenth-century theatre fell out of favor with scholars, research in the field languished, and university courses devoted to the topic were few and far between. Ignoring dire warnings that her specialty would limit her career and publishing options, Barbara remained passionate about her chosen field of endeavor and pursued her research in this area.
Although she has no regrets, she does lament the fact that for much of her career, there was a near-total disconnect between her classroom topics and her research, all the more so because her teaching career played out at institutions that have no graduate programs in French. Her creative approach to teaching, together with her already established scholarly reputation, won for her the coveted Lindberg Award as the Outstanding Scholar-Teacher in the College of Liberal Arts at UNH for the academic year It was One of them, a slender, pretty woman with a coiffure gamine , was describing the sense of exclusion and inadequacy she had experienced during a conference she had attended in France as an observer rather than a participant a short time earlier.
I turned to look at her. Here was a woman who appeared to be more or less my age, and she had attended a conference in France! It seemed unfathomable to me. At the same time, I identified with the feelings of unease she was describing, feelings that I was having at that very moment. I joined the conversation, and it was on that day that our friendship was born. Barbara and I would go on to co-edit two scholarly collections and to head the Nineteenth-Century French Studies Colloquia Committee as Secretary and President respectively from to We helped each other out in many different ways.
I shall always be grateful to Barbara for enabling me to reach the required enrollment figure for a program in Paris I was to direct in the spring of because UNH did not have a semester program in France and because the university-wide program I was directing had no French prerequisites, she was able to recruit three UNH students for me without being disloyal to her own institution—and she did! With our husbands, Barbara and I have also seen each other outside the academic context. We never forget birthdays. I once said somewhat flippantly, introducing a very distinguished scholar who had come to my university to deliver a lecture, that while most people arise in the morning and put on the coffee, she probably headed straight to her computer to update her CV.
About Barbara Cooper, who arises at an hour when most of us are still fast asleep and who needs no caffeine to wake her up she does not, in fact, drink coffee, or tea either, for that matter , I think I could make the same remark, in this case quite accurately and without flippancy. As a frequent recipient of her 3 a. Rounding out her scholarly profile are 39 book reviews and ninety-plus conference presentations, increasingly abroad mostly in France and increasingly by invitation.
When I asked her recently if she had ever suffered from stage fright, she answered in the negative, crediting her serenity to an experience she had the very first time she read a paper at a conference.
Seated at the conference table, she watched as a well-published senior scholar rose tensely to the podium to read her paper, knees knocking. Having heard her speak on several occasions, I can attest to the fact that she speaks with authority and poise, often including self-deprecating asides that make her audiences smile.
She inevitably hints at the historical significance of the work she is discussing, often flattering her audiences by leaving it up to them to connect the dots. Barbara is far too meticulous a scholar to leap to conclusions that she cannot support, but her always detailed and insightful readings of individual works do evoke issues that far transcend the text in question. The year was Her passion for early nineteenth-century theatre, well suited to her talent for sleuthing, has often taken her to the dusty archives of Parisian and provincial libraries where she has spent countless hours poring over manuscripts, censorship reports and reviews of forgotten plays from that era, some popular in their time, others never performed.
Although she has a special interest in romantic drama, her research spans the theatrical genres: comedy including vaudeville productions , Restoration-era tragedy, melodrama and dramatized monologues. Examining the plays from every possible perspective, she has focused on dialogue, casting, symbolism, staging and critical reception. Whatever her angle, she brings to light revealing details that have historical significance, readily confessing that many of the plays she studies have limited literary value.
Their social value and their worth as historical documents, on the other hand, are often incalculable, and it is this historical significance that she generally seeks to illuminate in her research. Although theatre remains her first love, Barbara Cooper has not limited herself to this genre, as her editions of The Three Musketeers and Man in the Iron Mask amply demonstrate.