Sanford Scribner Ames (PhD U of Wisconsin-Madison, 1970) has defined 20th-century French literature and civilization since 1983, the year he joined UC. A course on New Criticism that Serge Doubrovsky taught while Sanford was at Harvard made him change his major to French. He began devouring Proust, Gide, Surrealist poetry, Artaud, Camus, theater of the Absurd, and colonial travel literature by Cendrars, Ségalen, Céline, Genet, Marguerite Duras, Michel Leiris, and Claude Lévi-Strauss among others.
As he focused his research, he delved into the issues of literary representation that writers faced under the pressure of historical events such as WWI, WWII, the Chinese Revolution, and decolonization. His acumen was praised by colleagues and students alike. In 1987, Richard Howard wrote: "There are not a dozen men and women in the entire country with Sanford Ames's resourcefulness, penetration, and deep understanding of how literature—the art of language—functions in the range and realm of French . . ."
Sanford Ames took great joy and pride in investigating and teaching the language that 20th-century writers carved, sculpted, bent, interrogated, and deconstructed to shape human experience and existential questions in aesthetic and memorable creations. Significant publications include Remains to be Seen : Essays on Marguerite Duras (1988), the first collection of essays in English devoted to the Saigon-born French author and film director (1914-96), L'impensable imaginaire : The Unthinkable Imaginary (1991) another collection of essays, and several incisive articles on postmodernist aesthetics, Maurice Blanchot, Georges Bataille, Samuel Becket, and Thomas Pynchon.