“Aimer, c’est agir,” wrote Victor Hugo three days before he died. “To love is to act.” His words summarize well why I teach: I believe in people’s potential to learn, grow, and contribute in marvelous ways. For over three decades, I have taught in American universities and in France: most recently, Les Misérables and Victor Hugo’s work in general (in English and in French)—but also French language, literature, and culture. The French government recognized my dedication by naming me a Chevalier des Palmes académiques. And this UVaToday article gives a sense of my courses. 

Most recently I have been teaching courses on the contemporary relevance of Hugo’s Les Misérables, including its adaptations into musical and films. My 2017 University Seminar students wrote compelling op-eds about how Les Misérables connects to today’s concerns.

Marva teaching at board

My love of teaching and my belief in its potential to improve lives are so strong that I founded the University of Virginia Center for Teaching Excellence. As I explain in my teaching philosophy, I encourage the sharing of ideas because ideas call each other forth. Open lines of communication, branched jointly among students and teacher, broaden the whole field of inquiry. In that way, I think, teaching and writing are not so very different from each other.

students smiling

Students say . . .

This course is successful not only because of the power of Victor Hugo’s incredible novel, but also because Marva is the most fantastic teacher I’ve had at UVa thus far. She is an expert in her field, constantly pursues improvement in her teaching, and cares about the learning of her students.

I liked literally everything. This was my favorite class this semester, I always looked forward to the reading, the forum posts, and the class discussions. It changed the way I thought in daily life and it bettered my work habits/time management.

I loved the material, the enthusiasm of Marva Barnett, and very use of technology.