I first heard Steven Sampson speak at a seminar on the America of Philip Roth, organized by La Règle du Jeu in Paris. His knowledge, insight, wit - and incredible mastery of French - blew me away. Who was this Philip Roth scholar who navigated the deep waters of literary Paris with such ease?
Author of Corpus Rothi I and II, literary critic, scholar, and essayist for La Revue littéraire, L'Infini, La Quinzaine littéraire, Le Monde and L'Atelier du roman, Steven Sampson is a Milwaukee-born American with (after Harvard and Columbia) a PhD from Paris VII.
Steven Sampson, a Paris Writers News Interview
Laurel Zuckerman: You have written extensively about Philip Roth. Do you have a favorite book by him? Which one - and why?
I made a conscious effort to avoid other "expats", a term which, by the way, I dislike. I consider myself more of an "immigrant." This attitude, along with my love of French language and culture, were essential.
It appeared in the Hors-Series (special issue) of Le Monde dedicated to Philip Roth (February 2013). It uses Rosemary's Baby and Mia Farrow as a prism for looking at the lives and work of Roth and Woody Allen. I do a parody of Portnoy's Complaint, as reflected in my title, which is based on the French translation.
It's a humorous look at the centrality of the figure of Jesus Christ in Roth's work. I also talk about Roth's color scheme. My reference to Stendhal's Le Rouge et le Noir arises from Portnoy calling himself "Porte-noir". Here, as in my doctoral thesis, I show that to understand Roth's symbolism, you need to know a bit of French.
What are you working on now?
And I continue to write for La Quinzaine littéraire. My next article is on Louise Erdrich.
About Steven Sampson: After an education at Harvard and Columbia and ten years working in publishing in New York, Steven Sampson moved to Paris where he obtained a PhD in American literature at the Université Paris-VII for a thesis written in French on Philip Roth. Since then he has published two books on Roth, Corpus Rothi I and II, as well as a collection of essays on other contemporary American writers, Côte est –Côte ouest.
He writes for several publications, including La Revue littéraire, L'Infini, La Quinzaine littéraire, Le Monde and L'Atelier du roman.
He is currently working on a novel about an American doctoral candidate in Paris, the first chapter of which appears in the September issue of L'Atelier du roman under the title "Roth est-il venu ?"
For more on Steven Sampson, see:
- Corpus Rothi. Une lecture de Philip Roth, Éditions Léo Scheer, coll. « Variations », 2011
- Côte Est-Côte Ouest. Le roman américain du XXIe siècle, de Bret Easton Ellis à Jonathan Franzen, Éditions Léo Scheer, coll. « Variations », 2011
- Corpus Rothi II. Le Philip Roth tardif, de Pastorale américaine à Némésis, Éditions Léo Scheer, coll. « Variations », 2012