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Research in French studies – University of Reading

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  • Raising awareness

    Languages and cultural knowledge in development programmes
    Project lead: Prof Hilary Footitt

Research in French studies

The research interests of our staff are wide and varied, covering the areas of history/politics and literature/cultural studies.  Our research ranges from Medieval and Renaissance to contemporary culture.

Research Centres

All postdoctoral researchers and research students in French Studies are associated with 'Réseau-F'  (formerly called the 2001 Group), whose members currently include Reading, Exeter, Oxford Brookes, Queen Mary College, Southampton , Surrey and Warwick.  Réseau-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
  • 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 Poster for the Children's '68 project.

Modern French and Francophone literature and culture

  • Twentieth-century French literature and philosophy, Dr John McKeane
  • Twentieth-century and contemporary French and Francophone literature, Women's writing, feminist and postcolonial theory, Professor Julia Waters



 Staff research activities and collaborations

Professor Hilary Footitt

Professor Footitt's current AHRC-funded project  '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 Marjorie Gehrhardt

Dr Gehrhardt's current research focuses on philanthropic organisations including the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. She has also been collaborating with a number of French and British charities, including Changing Faces and the French disfigured veterans' organisation Association des Gueules Cassées.

Dr Sophie Heywood

In 2016, Dr Heywood was awarded a LE STUDIUM/ Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellowship. Based at the University of Tours, Dr Heywood led the research project 'The Children's '68', on the impact of the '68 years on cultures of childhood, working with scholars in Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden.

Dr Catherine Léglu

Professor Léglu works on Medieval French and Occitan literature from an interdisciplinary perspective. Her publications include Multilingualism and Mother Tongue in Medieval French, Occitan and Catalan Narratives (2010) (a study of narratives that includes the earliest versions of 'Sleeping Beauty') and From Sequence to Sirventés: Aspects of Parody in Troubadour lyric (2000). She has published extensively on satirical and didactic texts, as well as more recently on the translation and adaptation of historical and literary texts into vernacular writings and word-and-image schemes. Her most recent work is on genealogical schemes as a form of historical writing, with reference to Occitan-language texts, and on translation and adaptation of the biblical story of Samson in post-conquest England, looking at word, image and music.

Professor Julia Waters

Dr Waters has published widely on modern and contemporary French and Francophone literature, especially on (postcolonial) Marguerite Duras and on Mauritian fiction. She is the author of The Francophone Mauritian Novel: Fictions of Belonging (Liverpool University Press, 2018); Duras and Indochina: Postcolonial Perspectives (SFPS Critical Studies, 2006); and Intersexual Rivalry: A 'Reading in Pairs' of Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet (Peter Lang, 2000). She is the editor of the special issue, '"L'ici et l'ailleurs": Postcolonial Literatures of the Francophone Indian Ocean', E-France: an Online Journal of French Studies, vol.2 (2008); and co-editor of Women's Writing in Western Europe: Gender, Generation and Legacy (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006). Dr Waters was the recipient of an AHRC Research Fellowship (2012-13) for a project on 'The Contemporary Mauritian Novel: (De)Colonisation, Multiculturalism, Globalisation.' She is currently developing a new, collaborative, multi-disciplinary project, provisionally entitled 'Loss in Mauritius: Small Island, Global Challenges.' Dr Waters' research contributes to the activities of the 'Identity, Migration and Conflict' research cluster. 

Past and present research projects

Breaking the Silence? Representing female bodily experience in women's literature from Algeria, France, and Mauritius (ongoing)

  • Maria Tomlinson (SWW DTP)
  • Supervisors: Dr Julia Waters and Dr Siobhan Shilton (Bristol)

France and Britain in the EU (ongoing)

  • Patrick Robert
  • Supervisors: Prof Hilary Footitt; Dr Athena Leoussi

The Welsh Tradition of the Seven Sieges of Rome (ongoing)

  • Carys Gadsden
  • Supervisor: Prof Francoise Le Saux

Early clerical perceptions of the Cathar heresy (2015)

  • Rachel Ernst
  • Supervisor: Dr Rebecca Rist and Prof Catherine Leglu

Unequal Marriage in 12th century France (2014)

  • Charlotte Pickard
  • Supervisor: Prof Francoise Le Saux

Pro-European groups and the French, Belgian and British empires (1947-1957) (2013)

  • Laura Kottos (AHRC)
  • Supervisor: Prof Andrew Knapp

The cultural memory of the Second World War: D-Day veterans and commemoration in Britain (2012)

  • Gregory Tinker (AHRC)
  • Supervisor: Prof Hillary Footitt

Children under the allied bombs, France 1940-1945 (2011)

  • Lindsay Dodd (Leverhulme)
  • Supervisor: Prof Andrew Knapp

Image and reality of the magician in twelfth century England (2011)

  • Carolina Escobar
  • Supervisor: Prof Francoise Le Saux 

Recent and on-going PhDs in French Studies span a broad range of periods and topics, and we welcome enquiries and proposals relating both to discrete specialisms and to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary work.


PhD opportunities


As a PhD student in the Modern Languages and European Studies Department, you will be provided with a desk in a shared office.

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