He obtained a B.A. at Lawrence University (1965), an M.A. in French at Columbia University (1966), and a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin (1971).
Before locating at Harvard University Conley was Professor of French and Italian at the University of Minnesota (1971–95). He has held visiting appointments at the University of California-Berkeley (1978–79), The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (1985–87), Miami University (1992), UCLA (1995), L’École des Nationale des Chartes (2005), L’Ecole en Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (2010), and other institutions. In the spring and summer of 1998, respectively, he led a Folger Library Seminar and, at Harvard University, an NEH Summer Seminar on cartography and early modern French literature. In the summers of 2001 and 2004 he taught at the Institut d’études françaises d’Avignon. In 2003 he was a seminar leader at Cornell University’s School for Critical Theory.
His work moves to and from early modern France and issues in theory and interpretation in visual media. Books include Film Hieroglyphs (1991, 2nd edition 2006), The Graphic Unconscious in Early Modern Writing (1992), The Self-Made Map: Cartographic Writing in Early Modern France (1996, 2nd edition 2010), L’Inconscient graphique: Essai sur la lettre à la Renaissance (2000), Cartographic Cinema (2007), and An Errant Eye: Topography and Poetry in Early Modern France (2010). He has published Su realismo (Valencia, 1988), a critical study of Las Hurdes (Luis Buñuel, 1932).
His translations include Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History (1988 and 1992), and the same author’s Capture of Speech (1997) and Culture in the Plural (1997); Jean-Louis Schefer, Paolo Uccello, The Deluge, the Plague (1995); Réda Bensmaia, The Year of Passages (1992); Marc Augé, In the Metro (2003) and Casablanca: Movies and Memory (2009); Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (1993); Christian Jacob, The Sovereign Map (2006).
He has been a fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin (1991), the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography (1992), Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities (1998), and The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2011–12).
He is a member of the Modern Language Association, The International Association for the History of Cartography, the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, the Renaissance Society of America, Society for the History of Discoveries and the United States Handball Association. Since 2000 he and his spouse, Verena Conley, have been Faculty Deans of Kirkland House at Harvard University.
Modern Language Association of America , United States
Renaissance Society of America , United States
International Association of Philosophy and Literature
Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin
Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography
Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
2011 - 2012
International Association for the History of Cartography
Society of Cinema and Media Studies
Society for the History of Discoveries and the United States Handball Association
He married in 1967 and has two children: David and Francine.