Julia Simon

Julia Simon

Position Title
Professor of French
Department Chair, French and Italian
French Language Program Supervisor

506 Sproul Hall
Office Hours
SQ 24: Wednesday 11:00am-12:00pm, Friday 11:00am-12:00pm and by appointment

Research Interest(s):

  • Eighteenth-Century Studies, Cultural History, African American Popular Music, Blues


Julia Simon specializes in 18th-century French literature and culture with special emphasis on the relevance of Enlightenment social, political, moral, and aesthetic theory today.  She also works in music, specifically on the cultural history of the blues. She is the author of Debt and Redemption in the Blues: The Call for Justice (forthcoming Penn State University Press), The Inconvenient Lonnie Johnson: Blues, Race, Identity (Penn State University Press 2022) Time in the Blues (Oxford University Press); Rousseau Among the Moderns: Music, Aesthetics, Politics (Penn State University Press); Beyond Contractual Morality: Ethics, Law, and Literature in Eighteenth-Century France (University of Rochester Press) and Mass Enlightenment: Critical Studies in Rousseau and Diderot (SUNY Press). Her current book project examines the politics of mobility in the blues. 

Recent Articles: 
"Women's Blues: Memphis Minnie, Part 2Women's Song Forum, posted August 13, 2022.

"Women's Blues: Memphis Minnie, Part 1Women's Song Forum, posted June 9, 2022.

"Robert Johnson and Spectral Timbre: What We Hear, What We Construct," Popular Music 41, issue 1 (February 2022): 83-96. doi:10.1017/S0261143022000010​.

"A Blues Aesthetic: Performance Practice, Politics, and History," Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics 45, no. 4 (Winter 2022): 233-43.

"The Significance of Cars in the Delta: Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues,” (Vocalion, 03416, 1937)," Popular Music and Society 44.1 (Feb. 2021); published online 12 Nov. 2019 https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2019.1690200.

"Dangerous Liaisons: Reflections on the Politics of Confidentiality in the Cyber-Age University,” The Eighteenth-Century: Theory and Interpretation 58, no. 4 (Winter 2017): 407-28.

Current Project:

The Politics of Mobility in the Blues (current project)
Personal liberty includes freedom of locomotion, but the movements of African Americans are hindered almost as much after Emancipation as under slavery. Examining the legal, economic, and musical understandings of mobility, the project traces the politics of mobility as articulated in the blues.

Education and Degree(s)
  • Ph.D., UC San Diego
Research Interests & Expertise
  • Cultural history of eighteenth-century France and African American music