Tobias Warner


Position Title
Associate Professor of French, Affiliated Faculty of African American and African Studies, Comparative Literature and Critical Theory; Undergraduate Faculty Advisor for French

505 Sproul

Education and Degree(s):

  • Ph.D., Comparative Literature (French, Wolof, English), University of California, Berkeley


Tobias Warner’s research explores points of friction in the globalization of literary cultures. Trained as a comparatist, his work is grounded in the study of modern African literatures with a particular focus on Senegal.

His first book is The Tongue-Tied Imagination: Decolonizing Literary Modernity in Senegal (Fordham University Press, 2019). The book explores a question that has haunted many postcolonial literatures: should a writer work in a former colonial language or in a vernacular? Instead of asking whether language matters, The Tongue-Tied Imagination explores how the language question itself came to matter. Focusing on the case of Senegal, the book investigates the intersection of French and Wolof. Drawing on extensive archival research and an under-studied corpus of novels, poetry, and films in both languages, the book traces the emergence of a politics of language from colonization through independence to the era of neoliberal development. Warner reads the francophone works of well-known authors such as Léopold Senghor, Ousmane Sembène, Mariama Bâ, and Boubacar Boris Diop alongside the more overlooked Wolof-language works with which they are in dialogue. Refusing to see postcolonial language debates as a choice between cosmopolitan appropriation or nativist revival, Warner argues that the language question opens up a fundamental struggle over the nature and limits of literature itself. Warner is at work on two new projects: a global history of close reading; and a comparative study of adaptations of the most widely circulated African folktale.

At UC Davis, Warner has taught in French and Francophone Studies, Comparative Literature, Critical Theory, and the Humanities Program. For the Department of French and Italian, he regularly teaches upper-division and graduate seminars on literature and film from West Africa, North Africa, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Mascarene Islands as well as on the history and culture of modern France.

Research Interests:

Comparative Literature; French and Francophone Studies; World Literature; African Literature, Film and Print Cultures; Wolof Literature; Critical Theory; Colonial and Postcolonial Studies

Selected Publications:

How Mariama Bâ Became World Literature: Translation and the Legibility of Feminist Critique,” PMLA, October 2016. Awarded the 2017 Malcolm Bowie Prize for the best article published by an early-career researcher in the broader discipline of French Studies.

Para-Literary Ethnography and Colonial Self-Writing: The Student Notebooks of the William Ponty School,” Research in African Literatures, Volume 47, Issue 1, Spring 2016.

Enacting Postcolonial Translation: Voice, Color and Free Indirect Discourse in the Restored Version of Sembène’s La Noire de...” in Translating the Postcolonial, Judith Misrahi-Barak and Srilata Ravi, (eds.), Presses Universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2017.


  • Upper-division
    • FRE 124: Introduction to Francophone Literatures
    • FRE 141: Citizenship, Difference, Belonging
    • FRE 128: Decolonization
    • FRE 141: Rewriting, Restaging, Revising
    • FRE 125: Autobiography in Francophone Comics
  • Graduate
    • FRE 224: The Scandals of Francophone Literature
    • FRE 224: The Language Question
    • FRE 211: Theories of Translation
    • FRE 224: Literature and the Archive


  • Malcolm Bowie Prize, The Society for French Studies, 2017. For the best article published in 2016 by an early-career researcher in the broader discipline of French Studies. Awarded for ‘How Mariama Bâ Became World Literature: Translation and the Legibility of Feminist Critique’, PMLA, October 2016.
  • Helen Tartar First Book Subvention Award for The Tongue-Tied Imagination, American Comparative Literature Association, 2017
  • Hellman Fellow, The Hellman Family Foundation, 2014-2015
  • Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellow, Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago, 2014
  • Faculty Fellow, UC Davis Humanities Institute, 2014-15
  • Summer Research Fellow, UC Humanities Research Institute / Mellon Foundation, 2013

Committees and Service

  • LLC Francophone Executive Committee, MLA
  • Advisory Board for the Program in Critical Theory, UC Davis
  • Advisory Board for the Humanities Program, UC Davis