Faculty Profiles

Tara Smithson

Tara Beth Smithson

Assistant Professor of French
Modern Languages and Cultures
124 Spes Unica Hall



My research focuses on Joan of Arc in public memory in the francophone world in the second half of the 20th century and early years of the 21st. Specifically, I examine why public dialogue about Joannic artifacts and identifications with her myth functions to bear witness to transnational traumas related to the practices of colonialism, imperialism, and globalization. I also look at when, alternately, identifications with Joan of Arc intwine with white supremacy and xenophobia to erase the humanity and nation building contributions of colonial populations, framing them instead as intruders upon a pure French national body for which the virgin Joan serves as proxy.

I am a fourth-generation teacher who is committed to the classroom as a site of liberation. For me, teaching is about curating conditions and content that empower learners to delve deep into themselves, grapple with challenging material in community, and collaboratively come to new understandings. On a practical level, three principal aims guide my teaching practices: (1) care: creating a classroom atmosphere that provides a supportive space for intellectual inquiry, (2) curiosity: engaging students with meaningful questions, and (3) connection: extending our experiences to other communities and realms of knowledge.


  • Ph.D. Louisiana State University (French and Francophone Studies)
  • M.A. Louisiana State University (French and Francophone Studies, Graduate Minor in Women’s and Gender Studies)
  • M.A.T. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Secondary English Education)
  • B.A. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (English and Romance Languages)

Areas of Expertise 

  • Joan of Arc
  • Public Memory
  • Postcolonial Studies

Research Interests 

  • Social Justice Pedagogy
  • Second Language Acquisition

Courses Recently Taught 

  • MLFR 101: Introductory French I
  • MLFR 102: Introductory French II
  • MLFR 111: Intermediate French I
  • MLFR 112: Intermediate French II
  • MLFR 203: Francophone Cultures: Africa and Asia
  • MLFR 304: Francophone Cultures: North America and the Caribbean
  • MLFR 320: French and Francophone Cinema
  • MLFR 340: Contemporary France

Creative and Scholarly Work 

  • Body in Transit, Body in Transition: The Resignification of Colonial Wounds in Roch Carrier’s La Guerre, Yes Sir! Québec Studies 57. Spring/Summer (2015): 107-129.
  • “Of Fairy Tales and Finances: Decriminalizing the Class Climb in Three Nineteenth-Century Novels,” Criminal Papers: Reading Crime in the French Nineteenth Century, Ed. Rosemary Peters, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2012. 71-95.
  • “Langue Lettrée: Linguistic Choice, Creativity, and Epistolarity in Huston and Sebbar’s Lettres Parisiennes,” Virgule. virgule.web.unc.edu, 2011.
  • “Rita Dove.” Le Dictionnaire universel des créatrices, Eds. Béatrice Didier, Antoinette Fouque, and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Paris: Belin, 2013.

Professional Memberships 

  • American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
  • American Association of the Teachers of French (AATF)
  • Modern Language Association (MLA)