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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

(Research-active staff in bold; postgraduates and Research Assistant in italicised bold.)

1. 1 Research activity, grounded in individual scholarly excellence, continues to flourish and expand through the structures consolidated in the last assessment period. One of the larger centres for French in the UK, and situated in a School of Humanities clustering a range of cognate highly-rated disciplines (German Studies, Hispanic Studies, Italian Studies, Russian, Classics Drama, English, Music, Philosophy), the Department conducts internationally-recognised research over the spectrum of specialisms in French Studies, from the medieval to the contemporary. All its research areas are backed by long-established and well-funded library resources. The University Library, a member of the UK Consortium of Research Libraries (CURL) and the North American based Research Libraries Group (RLG), provides easy access to up-to-date IT resources for the Humanities. In addition to the substantial holdings in French Studies on direct access, earlier periods of French literature and philosophy (especially 18th-cent.) are also well represented in the Special Collections, with a number of early printed books, first editions of texts and periodicals, and many early collected works of major authors. The Departmental research profile is kept sharp through informal research groupings: Women’s Writing and Gender Studies, Theory, Textual Editing, Film/Media/Visual Representation, History/Social Studies, Literature and Literature and History. Planned provision for participational activities (departmental seminars, conferences, postgraduate taught courses) maintains high levels of commitment to individual research and awareness of new developments across the discipline. This strategy has enabled the Department to keep the integrity of its specialist expertise while also responding vigorously, with fresh initiatives, to the emergence of new research fronts (e.g. the extension of Women’s Studies to Gender Studies, the expansion of interdisciplinary work, and work on film and visual representation, the increase in international activity). It has also helped the Department to confront the major national and local structural changes which have affected all Languages departments during the period, and absorb the loss (to posts and promoted posts in other French departments) of good researchers without losing research momentum and coherence.
1.2 The structure corresponds well to the Unit of Assessment framework. The continuing orientation is to French Cultural Studies (literature, literature/history, cultural and intellectual history, women’s writing, gender studies, visual culture and representation). Expanded interdisciplinary work fits happily within these parameters.
1.3 The strategy for promoting research and sustaining a vigorous and productive research culture ensures all staff have opportunities to maintain high levels of commitment to research and scholarship, while individuals who are currently significantly ‘on stream’ are appropriately supported. To this end:
· The centre of research activity is the fortnightly Departmental Research Seminar programme, which encourages mutual support and the cross-fertilisation of ideas. Planned on the basis of proposals and recommendations from all colleagues, it mixes papers from external speakers with workshop presentations from staff and postgraduates on the progress of their research. Visitors: Margaret Atack, Victoria Best, Sarah Capitanio, Alastair Duncan, Claire Gorrara, Chris Johnson, Henry Phillips, Ed Smyth, Hugo Tucker, Elaine Williamson, Geneviève Fraisse (CNRS), Jacqueline Razgonnikoff (Bibliothèque-Musée de la Comédie Française).
· Conferences, similarly initiated, are designed to foreground systematically different groupings of Departmental interest, and encourage collaboration with other Departments and institutions working in cognate fields (see 4.1). The collaborative link with the Department of Lettres Modernes, Université de Franche-Comté (Besançon), flourishing since 1996, and currently organised on the Birmingham side by Perkins, has inaugurated a strand of programmed biennial seminars and publication opportunities, as well as promoting informal individual contacts. (Link conference themes to date: Literary Criticism/Critique Littéraire, Women in French Literature, The Apocalypse. Proceedings published by the French partner.)
· The level of individual activity is carefully monitored. Formal discussion of individual staff research plans and progress, potential for new developments, and publication strategies, takes place with the Head of Department as part of the biennial Staff Development Review. Annual departmental research reports of output, published on the University Web, enable the Department to assess its own progress alongside that of highly-reputed cognate areas.
· Workload is carefully monitored. Individual loads are calculated to give credit to staff currently engaged in active research and publication, who also have timetabled one clear weekly research day. The introduction of Departmental Teaching Instructors and Graduate Teaching Assistantships has spread the weight of the teaching load, and increased opportunities for young scholars to fund the completion of their theses while gathering teaching experience. A School fund provides teaching relief to facilitate the completion of research projects for publication. The University operates a selective monitored programme of study leave (one semester in seven), from which all research-active staff in French have benefited.
· Funding for travel to conferences, libraries, archives and research centres is provided at Departmental and School levels. During the period, successful applications from French for international travel funding from the Faculty of Arts/School of Humanities research funds totalled £7381.
· Information about funding available internally, and through national and European funding bodies, is disseminated electronically within the School by the Convenor of the Arts and Humanities Research Forum who also gives advice and assistance to staff on drafting applications.
· Promotions and appointments strategies take account of the research priority and research excellence: promotion of Hughes to Senior Lecturer (1996) and Personal Chair (1999), and of Cornick to Reader (1999). Ricketts was appointed Honorary Professor in 1997; Kitson was appointed Lecturer in 1997.
Internal research leadership is given by the professorial working group, chaired by the Head of Department (Wood), which includes Birkett (Convenor of Postgraduate Studies and Organiser of Departmental Conference and Seminar Programmes), Hughes (Convenor of the School of Humanities Postgraduate Programmes Group), Crossley (Library Resources). Staff participation in policy discussions is secured through the Postgraduate Supervisors Group, and Departmental Board meetings (development of research and of postgraduate work is a standing agenda item).

2.1 Within the research infrastructure, overall Departmental responsibility for research organisation lies with the Head, who chairs the professorial working group. This ensures efficient integration of research and teaching.
The School of Humanities provides funding for staff travel and teaching relief, and advice on external funding (through the Humanities Research Forum). It operates a well-staffed Postgraduate Office to provide administrative support in connection with all aspects of postgraduate organisation: awards and admissions, induction, research training, provision of excellent study facilities (including IT access, workspace), support for research and conference travel, progress review, monitoring, mentoring. The Office is overseen by the Head of School and the School Postgraduate Programmes Group (Chair, Hughes). The latter also reviews proposals for new course developments before transmission to University’s Academic Board for approval. The co-ordinating link between individual Departmental supervisors and the School is the Departmental Convenor of Postgraduate Studies (Birkett), who chairs the Postgraduate Supervisors Group, channels student enquiries and applications, acts as Postgraduate Mentor, facilitates progress monitoring (twice-yearly reports by supervisor and student, reviewed by the School Postgraduate Board), and oversees the departmental research training programme (IT skills, library skills, thesis organisation, methodology, introduction to critical theory).
Training for supervisors and mentors of postgraduates and Research Assistants is provided by the University’s Staff Development Unit, which also has a programme of training and career development for Research Assistants. The University Graduate Centre maintains a Web site for supervisors and students with details of University regulations and guidelines pertaining to postgraduate work. At University level, a Pro-Vice Chancellor has overall responsibility for research. The pro-active Research Support and Business Development Office provides information on funding opportunities (regular newsletter), training courses and advice on funding applications. The University Postgraduate Office supports academic staff in all aspects of admissions, progress monitoring, examinations.

2.2 The development of postgraduate research has been actively pursued. Two new masters courses have been devised over the assessment period (and one joint course with Aston University is in planning), with a view to encouraging research applications. French staff (Birkett, Hughes, Ince) participate in interdisciplinary masters programmes (Critical Theory, Gender Studies, Film Studies), which provide another channel for research recruitment. School, University and Department offer a range of Scholarships, fees Bursaries, maintenance awards, and Graduate Teaching Assistantships. The Centre for Modern Languages (CML) runs a well-reputed training programme for postgraduates preparing to teach (Fell, Rowe, Sharpling, Tinker, Tyler all obtained university posts during the period, in the Universities of Oxford, Leeds, Warwick, Heriot-Watt, Birmingham). The Departmental Supervisors’ Group meets twice yearly to discuss student progress and programme development.

3.1 Interdisciplinary and collaborative research are well supported. The latter has always figured large in the Department. See below (4.1) for details of one-off and long-term collaborations. Interdisciplinary research has been actively developed within the Department since the early 1990s. Conferences are organised to focus this activity, supported by a special account managed by Birkett. New appointments have been used to develop the interdisciplinary capacity (historians Cornick, Kitson, work in collaboration with literary specialists). Closer links being established with Aston will further enhance the potential for research into the intersections of History/Politics/Culture. The current research masters programme War and Society in Modern France, and the Contemporary French Studies taught masters planned with Aston, both bring together cultural representation, history, and politics. French staff participate in School interdisciplinary postgraduate research programmes (Critical Theory, Gender Studies: Ince, Hughes convenors for part of the period), and contribute to other departments' research seminar series (e.g. Kitson, History, Ince, History of Art). The University is systematically promoting interdisciplinarity within the larger research culture.

4.1 Research groupings are informal, and there is considerable cross-over, which the cross-references supplied below seek to indicate; but they have provided an effective support structure for individual research publication during the period. All staff publish in Europe as well as the UK, with major scholarly publishers. Many are also published or co-published in US/Canada.

4.1 (1) Work in Women's Writing and Gender Studies has been well-reviewed internationally. Hughes, Ince's co-edited essay collection in women's erotic fiction (includes essays by Hughes, Ince, Birkett) has furthered significant debates in feminist and French studies. Birkett also published short essays on pedagogy and romance in Genlis, and the father figure in Staël and Sand, and an extended comparative essay on 20th-cent. French feminists and Anglo-Irish modernists. Reviewers of Hughes' Heterographies (awarded first annual J H Gapper book prize, Society for French Studies) welcomed its original and productive contributions to the development of autobiography and queer theory; Hughes also published Gay Signatures (ed. with Heathcote, Williams) and articles on Beauvoir, Guibert, Leduc. Ince continued to publish on Duras, co-organised the first (international) conference of the Duras Society, and co-edited the Proceedings (in press). Her commissioned book, Orlan: millennial female, brings together gender studies, interdisciplinary theory and practice in the visual arts, cultural studies, performance studies. Perkins published articles on ethics and politics in 17th.-cent. women's writing, including work relating to the History of Medicine, and contributed papers to conferences and workshops in that area; her frequently-cited book on Medicine and Midwifery in Early Modern France was shortlisted for the Longman History Prize; she organised the 2nd Joint Conference with the U. de Franche-Comté on Women in French Literature. 7 postgraduates worked in this area during the period. Fell gave papers on Beauvoir in Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Nottingham Trent, U. of South Carolina, published two essays on Beauvoir, co-organised a conference on Paris and published the Proceedings (see below). Fishwick published three essays/articles on Beauvoir, and has had her thesis accepted for publication (Peter Lang). Milton gave a joint paper with Hughes in Wolverhampton, on autobiography and autofiction. Tidd gave papers and published articles on Beauvoir, and has since published the book of her thesis with CUP. Tyler published a paper given in Cambridge, on Jeanne Flore.

4.1 (2) Theory. For Hughes’s work on queer theory, writing and sexual difference, and film, see (4.1.1). Ince, Birkett co-edited Samuel Beckett (Longman Critical Reader Series, 1999, in 2nd reprint). Ince's contribution to the Introduction brings a new perspective to the debate on 'modernist'/'postmodernist' Beckett, showing how his work contributes to the deconstruction of the literary-historical opposition. Ince organised a cognate Day Conference, 'Critical Beckett' (French Embassy sponsorship; speakers Mary Bryden, Steven Connor, Leslie Hill, Daniel Katz [U. de Poitiers]). 3 postgraduates were registered in this area. Everley gave conference papers in Birmingham and Dublin, both of which were published.

4.1 (3) Textual Editing. Crossley published co-edited volumes of the Michelet-Quinet correspondence. Mason completed vol. 1 of the machine-readable edition of the Oeuvres Diverses of Montesquieu, in the Voltaire Foundation’s new Oeuvres Complètes. Ricketts published well-reviewed editions of the Breviari (vol. 3), and a Concordance of Medieval Occitan (tranche 1), applying IT to lexicology (with European collaborators; Research Assistant funded by Leverhulme for the first two tranches). His current research is linking up with musicology. Wood continued his participation in the work of the Comité directeur of the Editorial Board preparing the 45-vol. Works of Constant. He published a co-edited vol. of Constant’s Correspondance internationally acclaimed for its scholarship (e.g. by Béatrice Didier), and associated articles.

4.1 (4) Film, Media, Visual Representation. Colleagues working in this area have developed a strong interest in the relationship of image and text. Hughes is working on 2 co-edited books, one on Gender and French Film (Berg), and one on narrative and photographic representation, Phototextualities. For Ince, see (4.1.1).

4.1 (5) History/Social Studies. Cornick’s book on the political history of the NRF under Paulhan (1995), which made a significant contribution to current reassessment of Paulhan's work, generated further essays and numerous speaker invitations during the present asessment period (Cerisy-la-Salle,1998, Marcel Arland conference, Lille, 1999, 20th-cent. Reviews Conference, Dijon). He collaborates extensively with colleagues in the IHTP and IMEC. He has also published comparative work in turn-of-century Franco-British intercultural studies, and is writing a commissioned book on The Victorians and France. In 1996, Kitson’s thesis on the Marseille police was awarded a prize of 7500FF by the Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Sécurité Intérieure. He has presented papers in UK and France and published essays and articles on the history and sociology of the police and secret services in 20th-cent. France. He organised a Departmental Conference on The French Detective in Fact and Fiction (speakers Clive Emsley, and Berlière [U. de Bourgogne], Kalifa [Paris VII], Lévy and Zauberman [CESDIP-CNRS]). He is British correspondent for XXième Siècle, and was British correspondent of the Varian Fry foundation (1997-99). Cornick, Crossley co-edited the Festschrift for Douglas Johnson (Problems in French History, 2000). Four postgraduates worked in this area. Tinker's doctoral thesis on French Song will appear with Liverpool University Press as part of their Modern French Writers series.

4.1 (6) Literature, and Literature and History.
General
. Birkett's research into ideology and prose form, women's writing, 20th.-cent. drama, underpinned the relevant sections of the well-received Macmillan Guide to French Literature: Early Modern to Postmodern (co-authored with Kearns, Exeter). The research aims of the text included the tracking of transformations of the idea of the subject in French culture and society, and the corresponding negotiations with form and language (explored through close literary-critical textual commentary) that constituted its literary representations. 16th-cent. 1 postgraduate. 17th-cent. For Perkins, see (4.1.1). 1 postgraduate worked in the area (plus 1 other included under [4.1.1]). 18th-cent. For Birkett, see (4.1.1); for Mason, Wood see (4.1.3). Mason's work on Montesquieu’s later prose fiction and Voltaire’s later biography/history has issued in various articles and essays. Her current collaborators are Pierre Rétat (Lyon II), J. Ehrard (Clermont-Ferrand), A. Postigliola and L. Bianchi (Naples). She continues to be a member of the Conseil d’administration of the Société Montesquieu. 3 postgraduates have been working in this area. Bolton gave two papers on the Encyclopédie (now in press). 19th-cent. Birkett's work on the politics of Decadent prose form led to invited critical essays printed alongside those of major American scholars in The Decadent Reader and Perennial Decay. Her 1986 study of Rachilde was reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism (Gale Research). Ashton published translations in The Decadent Reader. Crossley published on Romantic intellectual history, and was Adviser for entries 1798-1870 for the New Oxford Companion to French Literature; he is currently Adviser to the Encyclopedia of the Romantic Age (Fitzroy Dearbon). He continues to be a member of the Editorial Committee of the Cahiers Charles Fourier and the Comité scientifique of the Association 'A la recherche de Michelet', and UK Corresponding Member for the Société des Etudes romantiques. 20th-cent. See above (4.1.1 and 2) for Birkett, Hughes, Ince.

4.1 (7) Cross-Disciplinary, Interdisciplinary
Birkett
’s long-standing interest in the interactions of French/English prose fiction, especially 1870-1950, is now central to her work. She has given papers and published articles on the links of French Decadence and English Modernism, and co-edited and jointly-introduced (with Smith, Nottingham Trent) a book-length Special Issue of the Spanish journal Miscelánea, opening fresh perspectives in the field of Anglophone Modernism and Europe, with invited contributions from major English and French scholars from all five continents. She has also published on the French connection in English writing in the 1930s, with reference to the work of Storm Jameson. Birkett, Cornick are members of a group funded by £54k award from the University’s Interdisciplinary Research Competition (1999-2001, Birkett Lead Investigator, Research Assistant, Orchard) to develop a database for the study of cultural representation, national identities and the European idea, 1870-1950. The group draws its membership from U. of Birmingham Departments of French Studies, Hispanic Studies and English, and from European Studies at Aston. The database will be searchable on intranet by established scholars and postgraduates. Orchard’s article on cultural belonging and group identification in the context of national and European identity is to be published by the European Journal of Social Theory. 1 postgraduate is working in the project area. The group has mounted its first seminar series, Thinking Europe (visiting speakers Martin O'Shaughnessy, Georges Zaragoza [U. de Bourgogne], Anne-Marie Thiesse [EHESS - Jan. 2001]). Hughes's Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture (co-edited with Reader), which draws on much original research, maps an evolving, dynamic terrain of research and study which constitutes a paradigm shift in French Studies research. It has been extensively well-reviewed, and was designated by one reviewer ‘an essential reference tool for all relevant libraries’. The interdisciplinary dimension of work by Ince, Perkins, is described in (4.1.1). Fell and Tinker guest-edited and introduced a selection of papers from their postgraduate symposium on Paris in M&CF. 3 postgraduates have been researching cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary topics (plus Jones, working on interdisciplinary theory). James published two articles and has one in press, gave papers in Birmingham and Leiden, organised an interdisciplinary conference for English and French Departments on G W M Reynolds, including a segment on the influence of French politics, culture and literature on his life and writing, and assisted Kitson with the French Detective conference. Rowe gave papers in Birmingham and Nottingham, and co-organised the international conference France: History and Story. His thesis has been published with Peter Lang (A Mirror on the Rhine.The Nouvelle Revue Germanique. Strasbourg 1829-37, 2000).

Interdisciplinary conferences: Algeria: Post-War Perspectives (co-sponsored by ASM&CF, speakers Philip Dine, Tim Stenhouse, Yvette Rocheron; France: History and Story: French National Identity (plenary speakers Douglas Johnson, Roger Magraw, Siân Reynolds, Anne-Marie Thiesse; 3-day international conference, co-sponsored by French Embassy, and co-organised by Birkett, Cornick, Rowe ); Paris (sponsored by ASM&CF, postgraduate symposium, co-organised by Fell, Tinker); G W M Reynolds: Popular Culture, Literature and Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century, postgraduate, organised by James. Interdisciplinary workshop, Aspects of Sport in France, organised by Birkett (speakers Philip Dine, Ian Henry).

4.2 Websites to facilitate research links and discussion have been set up on the Departmental site [http://artsweb.bham.ac.uk/artsFrenchStudies/] by Hughes (Doubrovsky), Kitson (Vichy, French Police); Wood's site includes papers on Constant and his thesis on Isabelle de Charrière.

5. Staffing Policy. For arrangements for the development and support of staff research, see above (1.3). Younger/new staff researchers are integrated into the research culture as active working members of the informal groupings. Senior colleagues help with the placing of papers and articles, and involve juniors in collaborative projects. A mentor is allocated, who advises on how to prioritise research appropriately within the workload, ensures the load is not such as to inhibit research, and gives advice on writing, conference attendance, publishing, making funding applications, etc. Staff development programmes include provision for advice on organising research, making presentations, drafting applications, etc. Postgraduates participate in research activities alongside established researchers. They are required to present work in the Departmental seminar, encouraged to deliver papers at national and international conferences and write articles for publication, and work alongside staff to mount conferences, as well as running their own. Staff movement: the presence of the research groupings and the interdisciplinary nature of staff research mind-sets enabled the Department to absorb the loss of productive researchers to promoted posts in the mid-1990s (Hayward, Film, to the Chair of French, Exeter, and Hammond, 17th-cent., to a Cambridge Fellowship). Hughes, Ince have developed strongly their interests in Film and Visual Representation. Perkins, the remaining 17th-cent. specialist, is supported by the Women’s Writing group, which has also covered Callander's retirement. The retirement of Brook leaves Ricketts as the only medievalist, and that of Hallmark and Sproxton leaves no specialist research capacity for work in the Renaissance. However, the possibilities provided by the informal research groupings for thematic rather than chronologically-based approaches means that some forms of work in these periods can still continue (eg women's writing). The Department is fortunate in that the coverage of 17th-19th cent. continues to be strong, while new appointments have enabled 20th-cent. work to expand further into cultural and social history. Additional observations. (a) Category C staff. Ricketts has an office in the Department. He has full access to IT equipment, on the same basis as other staff, and to all University research support facilities, and takes a full part in Departmental seminars and conferences.


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Last updated 17 October 2003

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