Professor Apostolidès was educated in France, where he received a doctorate in literature and the social sciences. He taught psychology in Canada for seven years and sociology in France for three years. In 1980 he came to the United States, teaching at Harvard and then Stanford, primarily French classical literature (the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) and drama. He is interested in avant-garde artistic movements such as dada, surrealism, and situationist international; as well as the theory of image, literary theory, and Francophone literature. He is also a playwright, whose work has been staged in Paris, Montreal, and New York.
Professor Apostolidès has served as chair of the Department of French and Italian and as executive editor of the Stanford French Review and the Stanford Literature Review.
His literary criticism focuses on the place of artistic production in the French classical age and in modern society. Whether it be the place of court pageantry during the reign of King Louis XIV (Le Roi-Machine, 1981), or the role of theater under the ancien régime (Le Prince Sacrificié, 1985), or even the importance of mass culture in the 1950s (Les Métamorphoses de Tintin, 1984), in each case Professor Apostolidès analyzes a specific cultural product both in its original context and in the context of the contemporary world. Some of his most recent books include L’affaire Unabomber (1996), Les Tombeaux de Guy Debord (1999), L'Audience (2001), Traces, Revers, Ecarts (2002), Sade in The Abyss (2003), Héroïsme et victimisation (2003), Hergé et le mythe du Surenfant (2004). The tools required for such analysis are borrowed from literary criticism and from the social sciences, particularly psychoanalysis, anthropology, and sociology.
In his books, Professor Apostolidès interprets the works of the past as witnesses of our intellectual and emotional life. His examination of the distant or near past seeks to make us more sensitive to the social changes that are taking place now, in order to improve our understanding of the direction in which contemporary society is moving.