Yassine Ait Ali

Graduate Student


Yassine is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of French & Italian at Princeton University and an Ivy Plus Exchange Scholar in the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University in 2023-2024.


Born to Moroccan Amazigh parents and schooled in the beautiful region of Seine-et-Marne, France, Yassine studied French, Arabic, and Comparative Literature at Sorbonne Université and read for an MPhil in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford where he mainly concentrated on Enlightenment Studies, World Literature, and Disability Studies. He wrote his dissertation on 1750−1830 French and English female authors (Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni, Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte de Bournon, Comtesse de Malarme). 

His current interests regard what he calls Classica Francophonia, a term he coined to refer to the rich and various ways in which contemporary Francophone authors, artists, and filmmakers from all over the world (with a focus on Africa and the Caribbean) engage with classical and canonical works of Europe, including Homer, Shakespeare, Defoe, Delacroix, and Camus. Building on critical reception studies, his dissertation examines how Aimé Césaire, Marysé Condé, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Salim Bachi, Malika Mokeddem, Gisèle Pineau, and others rethink the themes of homecoming (nostos) and exilic conditions found in Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s epistolary writings on exile, and James Joyce’s Ulysses.


Yassine also holds a master’s degree in Teaching French as a Foreign Language (F.L.E.) from the Université d’Artois and is a certified examiner for the DELF and DALF standardized tests. He acquired a wide experience in teaching and tutoring in Languages and Literature at all levels, including language centers, primary and secondary schools, summer schools, detention centers, the Universities of Exeter (UK), Reading (UK), and Sorbonne-Nouvelle (France). In May 2023, he was awarded Princeton University’s Best of Access, Diversity, and Inclusion prize for ‘Outstanding Divisional Leadership’ in the Humanities.

Recent positions include teaching a multi-year series of seminars on ‘Narrative Identities’ for the University of Oxford’s OxNet Access & Outreach Scheme, an ‘Introduction to Global & Oral History’ to Sciences Po Paris refugee students through Princeton’s Global History Lab, an ‘Introduction to French’ through the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning’s Prison Teaching Initiative, and undergraduate tutorials in colloquial and standard Arabic with Princeton’s Near Eastern Studies Department

On Campus 

At Princeton, he initiated and presided over the jury of the inaugural Choix Goncourt USA, a literary prize that is part of the Académie Goncourt's aim to involve university students around the world (The New Yorker’s coverage). He also co-founded Princeton’s French & Francophone Society (FFS), a student-run organization that aims to promote Francophone languages and cultures on campus. In April 2023, the FFS officers co-organized the first-ever Princeton French Film Festival which attracted more than 1000 attendees (including local high school students and teachers). With the University Administrative Fellowship awarded by Princeton University’s GradFUTURES, he will work on organizing the second edition of the festival in collaboration with the Modern Language Association, the NJ Council for the Humanities, and the French Embassy’s Cultural Services via the Villa Albertine. 

He is always happy to discuss and share his experiences with interested students and prospective applicants.

Select Papers 

The Arab on the Corner (L’Arabe du coin): Immigration and Tradition in France’, Modern Languages Department, Ursinus College, October 2023. Based on his participation in France Culture’s documentary podcast ‘Qui est “L’Arabe du Coin?”.

‘Classica Francophonia, or the Relocation of the Classics in Africa and the Carribean’, The Institute for World Literature, Harvard University, July 2023. 

'Les robinsonnades de Kamel Daoud', Relire et Réécrire. Mythes et textes sacrés dans le monde arabe et en Afrique, Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, Centres d'Etudes Linguistiques et Littéraires Francophones et Africaines, forthcoming in Spring 2024. 

‘A la recherche du thé perdu : des « gardens » de Thomas Lipton aux « jardins » de Marcel Proust’, The Irish Proust, Museum of Literature Ireland (Dublin), October 2022.

‘Postcolonial Rewritings of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe: Reflections on Selfness and Otherness (Michel Tournier, Patrick Chamoiseau, Kamel Daoud)’, The Institute for World Literature, Harvard University, July 2021. 

‘An Approach to “La poussière des cabinets de lecture”: the case of Charlotte Bournon-Malarme’, Working with Archives, Society of Dix-Neuviémistes and Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France, June 2021. 

‘Blind Writers and Writing Blindness, a Counter-Discourse? Jacques Lusseyran, Helen Keller, and Autobiography’, The French Graduate Seminar, University of Oxford (All Souls College), June 2019.