Research in French Studies

Building facade, VersaillesOur staff's research interests are wide and varied both in their thematic range, covering literature, cultural studies, history, and politics and in their chronological span, ranging from medieval and Renaissance to contemporary fields.  That has not only contributed to the standing of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies as a leading research department; it also enables the French Strand to offer its students the widest possible choice of modules. 

The French strand of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies is also a part of Réseau-F, a cross-institutional partnership between the Universities of Reading, Warwick, Southampton, Sheffield, and QMUL. It is a partnership for the support of research activities among postgraduate students and early career researchers in these institutions. 

Research Centres

All postdoctoral researchers and research students in French Studies are associated with 'Reseau-F'
(formally called the 2001 Group), whose members currently include Reading, Exeter, Oxford Brookes, Queen Mary College, Southampton (lead institution), Surrey and Warwick (lead institution). Reseau-F holds regular study days at the different member institutions.

Staff research interests

The main areas of staff research activity are given below. These are also the main areas in which we provide postgraduate research supervision.

Medieval and Renaissance literature and culture
  • Medieval Occitan literature, didactic and moralising literature in French and Occitan, translation, word and image Professor Catherine Léglu
  • French medieval literature, Arthurian romances and chronicles, text and image relations in medieval manuscripts and early printed books Dr Irene Fabry-Tehranchi
  • Comparative Medieval literature, codicology, Breton folklore, French cultural studies Professor Francoise Le Saux
  • Renaissance poetry and thought, Du Bellay, exile literature, Renaissance Cento-writing in both Latin and the vernacular Professor G. Hugo Tucker
Modern and Contemporary French history and politics
  • French party politics; especially the Gaullist Party, French government Professor Andrew Knapp
  • Cultures of War and Conflict: Professor Hilary Footitt
  • History of children's literature and publishing, women's writing, the culture and religious history of modern France Dr Sophie Heywood
Modern French and Francophone literature and culture
  • Beckett studies, literature and philosophy, critical theory, French feminism Professor Mary Bryden
  • Twentieth-century and contemporary French and Francophone literature, Women's writing, feminist and postcolonial theory Dr Julia Waters
  • Nineteenth-century fiction; history and theory of the novel; realism; literary theory; comparative literature; law and literature; literature and economics Dr Sotirios Paraschas

Staff Research activites and collaborations

Emeritus Professor Mary Bryden is Research Advisor to the Samuel Beckett Research Circle, Tokyo, Japan, and British Representative for the Association por la Foundation Samuel Beckett in France. Her AHRC-funded Research Fellowship, 'The Transnational T E Lawrence' (2010-11), involved collaboration with colleagues at Universities in Britain and America (especially Bristol and Memphis), the organisation of a special session at the Annual Convention of the Modern Languages Association of America in Seattle (January 2012), and consultation of archive materials in London; Oxford; Cambridge; Paris; the Huntington Library, California; Brown University, Providence; the Harry Ransom Humanities Center, University of Texas at Austin; University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale; University of Victoria, British Columbia.

Dr Irène Fabry-Tehranchi is Associate Officer of the International Medieval Society and a collaborator of the Centre d'Etudes du Moyen Age (Université Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle). She is the author of the forthcoming Texte et Images des manuscrits du Merlin et de la Suite Vulgate (XIIe-XVe siècle) (Brepols, Texte, Codex et Contexte) and co-editor with Anna Russakoff (American University in Paris) of Human and Animal in Medieval France (Rodopi, Faux-Titre). She is currently working with Catherine Nicolas (Université de Montpellier III) on another book, L'iconographic du Lancelot-Graal (Brepols, Répertoire Iconographique de la Littérature du Moyen Age).

Professor Hilary Footitt's AHRC 'Languages at War' project was partnered with Southampton University and the Imperial War Museum, London, and had MoD representation on its Advisory Group. The current AHRC 'Languages and International NGOs' Network has the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) as a partner, and includes representatives from the International Red Cross, and the International Rescue Committee. She is co-editor of the new 'Languages at War' book series (Palgrave Macmillan).

Dr Sophie Heywood is part of the Leverhulme international network, 'Diasporic Literary Archives', which has established partnerships with The Beinecke Rare Book Room and Manuscript Library at Yale University; Il Centro di Ricerca sulla Tradizione Manoscritta de Autori Moderni e Contemporanei in Italy; I'Institut Mémoires de l'Edition Contemporaine (IMEC) in France; The National Library and Archives Service of Nambia; and a prominent archivist from Trinidad and Tobago.

Professor Andrew Knapp was CI for an AHRC-funded project entitled 'Bombing, States and Peoples in Western Europe, 1940-1945' in partnership with the Universities of Exeter and Newcastle (  A major output of this project was A resultant book, Forgotten Blitzes: France and Italy under Allied Air Attack, 1940-1945, (co-edited by Professor Knapp, is about to appear with Continuum 2012 of which Knapp is joint author. He took part in the Leverhulme financed Liberal Way of War project and is co-editor, with Hilary Footitt, of Liberal Democracies at War: Conflict and Representation. Knapp is currently preparing a follow-up funding bid to Bombing, States and Peoples, as well as a French edition of Forgotten Blitzes.  See Knapp's website on the Allied bombing of France here: Knapp is also the author of several books on French politics under the Fifth Republic, and has recently published articles on presidents Chirac and Sarkozy.

Professor Catherine Léglu is a member of the international committee of the Association Internationale d'Etudes Occitanes (AIEO). Her recent work develops from her monograph, Multilingualism and Mother Tongue in Medieval French, Occitan, and Catalan Narratives (Penn State UP, 2010). She was Principal Investigator in 2011-13 on a Leverhulme Trust-funded project, 'Histories and Geneologies', the edition and study of an illustrated world history in Old Occitan of the 14th c., British Library MS Egerton 1500. She is currently completing the published outputs of this project, and studying related texts in terms of translation studies, word-and-image, and historical writing in the later Middle Ages. She has also recently published a co-edited book with Rebecca Rist (History, Reading) and Claire Taylor (History, Nottingham), The Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade: A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2013).

Professor Francoise Le Saux works on issues of translation and cultural adaptation in the medieval British Isles. She is an active member of the GCMS and of the IHRS Centre. She is Honorary President of the International Arthurian Society and Secretary-Treasurer of Socièté Rencesvals British Branch. She is currently collaborating with Professors Denis Hue (Rennes II) and Francoise Laurent (Clermont-Ferrand) on an edition and modern French translation of the hagiographical poems of the twelfth-century Norman historian-poet Wace. Her main ongoing research project is an exploration of the impact on medieval and early modern literature of the scientific revolution initiated by translations from the Arabic, in particular with regards to the treatment of narratives of artificial human generation.

Dr Julia Waters was awarded an AHRC Fellowship in 2012-13, for her research project on contemporary francophone Mauritian literature. This has resulted in the production of a research monograph, The Contemporary Mauritian Novel: Fictions of Belonging, which is expected to be published in 2016-17, and to several invitations to give talks on her research findings, including at the Mellon Conference in UCLA in March 2014, and the Society of French Studies conference at Aberdeen University, July 2014. Dr Waters is also the author of several publications on Marguerite Duras, and will be an invited guest speaker at the Colloque de Cérisy on Duras in August 2014.

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