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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

The department considers that issues of research strategy and research environment are intimately connected. RA5(a) and RA5(c) have been combined. A statement of overall research outlook and the staffing policy supporting it is followed by a statement of ways in which staff members have contributed in particular fields to the priorities and character of the department’s research.

The department’s research strategy is to promote excellence in research over the range of what is a rapidly developing discipline. This involves challenging the boundaries of French Studies and contributing to its remapping. Interdisciplinarity is crucial to the department’s overall profile; colleagues are committed to the idea that research areas central to the subject currently - such as post-colonialism, ethics, literary theory, gender theory, problems of historical context and perception, etc - are inherently mobile. Research has thus developed in response to issues, areas and texts of scholarly, intellectual or moral concern, and has developed methodologies appropriate to the projects in hand.

A vigorous policy of appointments has been maintained by the department in pursuit of this overall research strategy; this policy is based on period coverage, plurality of critical approach and range of seniority. Funding has been secured for six appointments from Lecturer Grade A to Senior Lecturer. There has been a replacement appointment in the 19th century: Matlock (Senior Lecturer) to replace Hannoosh; and one in the 20th century: Haddour (Lecturer B) to replace ffrench. There has been a proleptic appointment in the Renaissance: MacDonald (Lecturer A) replacing R Calder retiring in 2002. There has been a new appointment in the medieval period: Gilbert (Lecturer B); one in the eighteenth and twentieth-century periods: Harrison (Lecturer B); and one in French and comparative literature: Agar (Lecturer A).

Periods of French culture involved range from the medieval to the contemporary. Issues engaged with include the role and responsibilities of literary or textual criticism (Agar, Gilbert, Harrison, Mathews); representations of identity in the reading process (Agar, Gilbert, Harrison, Mathews, Worton); literary identity (Agar, MacDonald); literary and historical biography (MacDonald, Mercer); Humanism (A Calder); censorship (Harrison, Matlock); postcolonialism and globalization (Haddour, Harrison); gender and sexual difference (Agar, Gilbert, Matlock, Mathews, Worton); translation (Haddour, Mathews, Paizis, Worton); the relation of history to reading in the situation of texts (Agar, Baker, Gilbert, Harrison, Matlock, Paizis); the ethics of reading (Agar, Baker, Mathews); relations of the visual to the verbal (Mathews, Matlock, Worton); film and video (Harrison, Matlock, Lack); the contemporary novel (Agar, Haddour, Harrison, Leak, Paizis, Worton); contemporary poetry (Mathews, Worton).

Methodologies engaged with include psychoanalysis (Leak, Mathews, Worton); gender theory and queer theory (Agar, Gilbert, Matlock, Worton); anthropology (Baker, Gilbert); theology (Burch, R Calder); the sociology of Bourdieu (Gilbert, Marlière, Paizis); the history of ideas (A Calder, R Calder); Foucauldian history (Agar, Harrison, Matlock); cultural studies (Agar, Matlock); postcolonial theory (Gilbert, Haddour, Harrison). An overriding concern is with the reading process, its analytical range and critical power. In this, the department testifies to its twin foundations in literary scholarship and textual exploration.

The department’s research output takes the form of monographs, chapters in books published internationally as well as nationally, articles in peer reviewed national and international journals, scholarly videos, curating exhibitions and writing exhibition catalogues, as well as organising and speaking at international conferences and symposia; an e-book is planned.

To support this commitment to excellence in research, the department has implemented a programme of sabbatical leave which produces a term of leave after every three years for four colleagues in any one academic session.

UCL as a whole operates a biennial programme of staff review and development in the context of which research objectives and progress are discussed. This is supported by a more informal meetings at least at the end of each summer term between colleagues and the Head of Department in which progress and related issues are further discussed.

The department has run a departmental research seminar at which invited speakers have addressed the department’s staff and research students. Emphasis has been laid on period coverage and interdisciplinarity, and the purpose has been to encourage creative collaborative thinking amongst staff and comparative thinking amongst students. In the light of new appointments, the department is now reconsidering its approach to such activity.

Research students Two British Academy Postdoctoral Fellows have been appointed in the department in the assessment period, each working in areas central to the department’s research profile: Brown (film), Manzini (19th century studies). Their activities include supporting the Head in running the department’s fortnightly seminar for MPhil/PhD students. Students present an aspect of their current work to each other, which is discussed on its own terms and also in terms of argument building and thesis completion. Graduate programmes, their progress and development, are discussed in the department’s Higher Degree Committee. Progress of MPhil/PhD students is monitored and supported in this committee through upgrading from MPhil to PhD and beyond. The department operates according to the UCL Graduate School code of practice for supervision of research students, which lays down what is expected of both student and supervisor as regards frequency of meetings, completion timetable, duties of supervisor and students. One PhD student (Carr-West) has won a Graduate School Cross-disciplinary Award to fund training in the Department of Anthropology necessary to his research in Sub-Saharan francophone literature. The department’s MPhil/PhD students have departmental membership of the Institute of Romance Studies, take part for free in the Institute’s colloquia and its research training programmes. MPhil/PhD students from the department participate in the annual international graduate seminar jointly run by UCL and OSL (Netherlands Graduate School for Literary Studies): see RA6. Evidence of the international reputation of the department is provided by the fact that research students registering during the assessment period have come from Romania, France, Greece, Japan, Sweden and the USA as well as the UK. Of the students in the department in their first or second year of research in 1996, 75% were awarded doctoral degrees by 31 March 2001 (100% of AHRB award-holders).

Other than in titles or headings, italics hereafter refer to areas of common research interest; bold hereafter indicates areas of common research interest between staff and the coherence of staffing policy.

Medieval Literature and Culture The department’s appointment of Gilbert has developed its research in the field as well as its questioning of disciplinary boundaries. Her work is comparative, and is informed by gender theory (Agar, Matlock, Worton), postcolonial theory (Haddour, Harrison) and anthropology (Baker). The Double in Medieval French and English Narrative will be submitted to CUP in 2001. Gilbert’s work is distinguished by its emphasis on textual criticism (Harrison, Mathews and others), which here involves reading texts that share a dominant concern and mapping their differences. The research moves from questions of how we situate texts to how we situate ourselves in relation to them, and to the part played by the reading process in identity formation. Gilbert develops this thought with reference to Bourdieu and popular culture (Marlière). Burch’s more traditional method examines tensions between the approaches to adultery in French church and civil law in the 12th century; and legal and theological connotations in the reception of French 12th-century literary texts. The historical element of Burch’s work has enabled collaboration with the History Department on the MA in Medieval History. An archival dimension to work in the area is provided by Tyson.
16th century and Renaissance studies The department’s strategy is to strengthen its research in the field and in the early to early modern periods generally (see above Medieval Studies and 18th century studies below) in order to maintain and develop its coverage. MacDonald’s DPhil dissertation, Literary Biography in Renaissance France 1524-1619, promotes the specificity of a literary reading of texts. Notions of the individual in approaches to the period are challenged in favour of a literary identity, and hence a constructed, corporate identity with specific social and institutional values. The department anticipates that MacDonald’s future output will contribute significantly to work in the field on genre history, cultural history, the history of the printed book and portrait engravings; and to the department’s work on textual approaches to the visual, the cultural, and to notions of identity. A further article will be published in BHR in 2001. The department supports the development of her research by providing her with an environment in which her interests can be fruitfully developed; and particularly by supporting her in keeping her Scholarship at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. The department plans to support MacDonald in developing further research links with that institution.
17th century studies In this area, the department’s strategy for research is to develop its work of reading texts in terms of the history of ideas. Building on her exploration of moral issues in Montaigne’s Essais, R Calder has analysed the development of post-Reformation Catholicism through the theology of the confession, and returned to the importance of Jansenist thought in canonical literary works of the period. A Calder, whose Molière was paperbacked by Athlone in 1996, has developed the thinking in that book in his La Fontaine, which proposes that the Fables represent a renewal of ancient and Humanist wisdom. He is further developing this literary critical reading of the history of Humanism in work in progress on the history of satire, which includes analysis of comic perspectives in early Baroque painting.
18th century studies Baker has continued her literary critical analysis of contractual thought in the eighteenth century. Rousseau and Da Ponte have continued to be the two writers explored, the latter offering a comic perspective on Rousseauean contractualism and in that way making his own contribution to the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Major monographs on those two writers announced in RAE1996 are still in preparation; four substantial chapters in collective volumes reflect Baker’s productivity in the field and her work’s contribution to the understanding of social theory in the Enlightenment. Baker’s approach interacts with others’ in the department in its focus on the reader, and on the process of reading as a form of autocritique. Like Gilbert, she draws on anthropological thought in situating the reader in relation to text, and she develops literary criticism into an ethics of reading. The department has developed its research in the field through the appointment of Harrison. His work on Sade and on censorship has explored in a broadly Foucauldian perspective (Agar, Matlock) ways in which the limits placed on freedom of expression shift and change in character, rather than being simply pushed back. In the monograph as well as in subsequent articles exploring different material on censorship in the 18th century, the emphasis is on the conjunction in the reading process of theoretical with historical knowledge.
19th century studies In keeping with its overall strategy, the department’s research in this area is situated on the borderlines of various disciplines, and is defined by this dynamic location as well as by the range of issues engaged with. Matlock and Mercer explore the relations between literary and historical research (Matlock’s Pilfered Belongings which analyses those relations is to be completed in 2001). Worton’s article ‘Of Sapho and Syphilis: Alphonse Daudet on and in illness’ is part of a major project on the interfaces of the Humanities and medicine. In addition to his monograph on Lautréamont, Lack’s work on various poetic figures in 19th century verse has developed into a theory of plagiarism that involves not only 19th century poets – Lamartine, Vigny, as well as Lautréamont - but also 20th century playwrights, novelists and filmmakers – Giraudoux, Aragon, Simenon and Godard. Lack developed further this interdisciplinary project on figuration during departmentally supported sabbatical leave in 2000. Mercer’s work has three essential strands in her comparative approach: 1. the aesthetics of 19th century modernity in France, including the reception of German literature of the period in France; 2. travel writing; 3. women’s writing: 1994 saw the publication of her edition of Léonie d’Aunet, Jane Osborn (Institute of Romance Studies); ‘Reflections on the failure of 1848 in French Women’s Writing 1848-1860’ will appear in Nachmärz und Realismus (2001). Mercer’s articles in all three of these areas appear in France and Germany as well as the UK. Her Balzac has led to the offer by the same publisher of a contract for a similar book on Zola. She is currently working on a historical biography of Xavier Marmier to be published by the British Academy/OUP in 2001. Marmier was a public figure whose career comprised the activities of explorer, journalist, critic, translator, novelist, social anthropologist and poet; the interdisciplinary nature of this work on a central if neglected figure in 19th century intellectual history reflects, and is supported by, the research environment of the department. Matlock’s Scenes of Seduction is to be followed up by Desires to Censor: Spectacles of the body, Vision and Aesthetics in Nineteenth-Century France, to be completed in 2001. In combination with the seven chapters in collective volumes published in France and North America as well as the UK, this is a substantial body of work on representation and gender theory in 19th century visual, literary, and historical or archival material. Her work on the visual extends to curatorship and the production of videos (See RA6).
20th century studies As in other fields, the department’s strategy in 20th century French and francophone cultures is to nurture diversity of methodology and a broad range of issues addressed. The department continues to be supported in the area by Lavers working on the visual and on contemporary thought and theory (see RA2 & 6a).
Research is focused on, but not limited by, textual analysis and embraces sociology and political science. In his La Mémoire socialiste (under consideration by L’Harmattan) as well as in published work, Marlière analyses French politics of the left and the history of the Socialist party from a sociological perspective. This approach has led to an introductory co-authored book La Sociologie de Pierre Bourdieu (La Découverte, 2001), and an intellectual biography of François Mitterrand (Macmillan, 2001). Marlière’s articles on European Socialism appear in journals of political science as well as of sociology in France, Belgium and in the UK.

A major element in strategic planning is the development of research in francophone and postcolonial studies. In addition to published work on Fanon, Harrison’s article on ‘exemplarity’ will appear in a special number of Paragraph on postcolonial theory (2001). Postcolonial Theory and the Work of Fiction (Polity Press, 2001) is at an advanced stage. The book is organised around readings of "exemplary" literary texts; it offers a critical ground on which theory meets, and is challenged by, historical research. Harrison’s body of work on the conditions of readership and censorship is developing into thought on identification, its history and theory: the projected monograph reviews sceptically the perceived powers of intervention of fictional narrative in major social or political issues. This level of critique is broached in ‘Readers as résistants: Fahrenheit 451, censorship and identification’, to be published in Society for French Cinema in 2001. Haddour’s Colonial Myths, History and Narrative, a history of French colonial relations with special reference to pieds noirs writers, was completed with the support of the AHRB research leave scheme: the department was able to support this award made to Haddour while still at the University of Staffordshire. The monograph is part of Haddour’s effort to reassess the specifically francophone experience of colonial and postcolonial history and to relocate that at the centre of postcolonial theory. Colonialism and the Ethics of Difference will appear with Pluto Press in 2001, as well as Frantz Fanon in the Critical Thinkers series, Routledge. Sartre’s Colonialism and Neo-colonialism, co-translated by Haddour with an introduction by him, has been published by Routledge (USA) in 2001. This introduction along with the preface by Robert Young entitled Sartre the African Philosopher seeks to restore Sartre to a position at the centre of the postcolonial debate. Haddour’s work is in dialogue with others’ not only through work on the francophone and on Sartre (Leak), but also the modern: his co-edited City Visions returns to the topos of the city as a basis for a critique of globalization.

To develop its work on francophone literature and theory, and its place at the center of the postcolonial debate, the department has won finance for the appointment of Celia Britton as Professor of French (part-time) with effect from 2002-3.

The department’s work in the field has been further developed by its work in the summer terms with Homi Bhabha since 1998. This has principally taken the form of seminars involving the department’s graduate students, including the annual OSL/UCL international postgraduate seminar. Additionally, plans have been discussed for collaborative work on visual culture.

While developing research on the francophone, the department’s strategy remains to foster plurality, both in the interests of individual staff and of excellence within the discipline. A key emphasis is on the ethical, cultural implications of the reading process. Worton, while currently being Vice-Provost of UCL with special responsibility for the Humanities and for Teaching and Learning, and being active in various capacities in the AHRB (see RA6), has published 12 chapters in collective volumes and 11 articles in journals in the UK, France, the Netherlands and the USA. Major strands in this body of work include: 1.Theories and representations of masculinity. With the support of AHRB funding (see below), Worton is co-curating an exhibition Typical men at the Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham, Minories Gallery, Colchester and the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, and co-authoring a book on representations of masculinity. 2.Contemporary women writers in France – a subject on which a co-edited collective volume is being prepared – and the contemporary novel in France generally. 3.Relations of medicine to literature. Worton will be giving a keynote lecture at La Médecine et l’imaginaire, Anger 2001. 4.Literature and the Visual Arts.

Agar’s appointment in French and comparative literature has strengthened teaching and research interactions with other departments. The appointment also develops the department’s work on the contemporary novel (Haddour, Harrison, Leak, Paizis, Worton) as well as on literary theory (Haddour, Harrison, Gilbert, Lack, Leak, Matlock, Mathews, Worton) and relations between literature and medicine (Worton). This environment forms the basis of the department’s support and development of Agar’s research. A major issue addressed is the representation of AIDS in Guibert’s writing and in other fictional texts including the televisual. The work deals with how identity is constructed in the reading process itself (Gilbert, Mathews, Worton); and with the responsibility of readers to approach texts in the light of ideological issues involved. The work has a central comparative dimension, dealing with material from France, Spain and North America. Its concerns and methodology place it at the heart of current debates on cultural study, gender and queer theory.

Since the publication of his Barthes: Mythologies, Leak’s twin focus has been on Sartre and the contemporary novel. Supported by the AHRB sabbatical leave scheme in 1999-2000, Leak is preparing a monograph addressing the Perec corpus from the standpoint of the psychoanalytical dialogue between Perec and Pontalis. A book proposal Writing Spaces: the work of George Perec has been presented to Cambridge UP and Harvard UP. Leak’s work on Sartre (Haddour), published in the UK and in France, has an equally psychoanalytical critical methodology, stressing the importance of theories of narcissism in understanding Sartre’s conception of the relation to others. Leak’s interest in Holocaust studies (The Holocaust and the Text. Speaking the Unspeakable) arises in part from his engagement with Perec and his Jewishness in particular. Leak and Paizis share the critical desire to explore the unrepresentability of the Holocaust in terms of the fictional narration of subjective positions. Literary forms and the reading of them reveal a particularly textual form of knowing. A companion volume to The Holocaust and the text, dealing predominantly with visual representations of the Holocaust, is planned for publication as an e-book.

Paizis’s narratological argument in Love and the Novel that popular romantic fiction is codified so as to confirm and dictate the desires and aspirations of its predominantly female readers, is developed in article in The Translator on the translation of such fiction. Paizis shows that translated versions of popular romantic fiction play a crucial part in feeding the self-image of their intended readership. Paizis thus provides a further ideological dimension to that of Agar in the department’s work on contemporary fiction. This dimension also informs Paizis’s critique of Bourdieu (Gilbert, Marlière) to be published in Diegesis (2001), where Paizis questions the scope and validity of Bourdieu’s sociology of the reader.

Lack’s work on the figure and on plagiarism in the 19th century has led to an analysis of plagiarism in the creative process of film. Additionally, a proposal for a monograph on Lumière has been accepted for publication by Manchester University Press in its French Film Directors series. Lack will give a paper ‘Sa voix: authorial voice in the work of Jean-Luc Godard’ at For Ever Godard, an international colloquium at Tate Modern, 2001. He co-edited The Tel Quel Reader, Routledge, 1988.

While being Head of Department since 1996, involving a redesign of the curriculum and an overhaul of the administration of the department, Mathews has sought to develop a distinctive voice in textual criticism, mainly through the medium of the monograph. Published and planned monographs take the form of discrete but related essays on individual (verbal and visual) texts, practitioners or themes, each designed to cast light on the dominant investigation of the book. This format enables a formal engagement with the problems of boundary, and the development of a critical idiom. Fitful Tracings, developed in tandem with The Pursuit of Decay (both announced in RAE1996), is one chapter from completion and offers readings of writers’ involvements with painters, word with image in Paris from the last fin de siècle to this. Imaginary epiphany is shown consistently to be vulnerable to the tyrannies of the sign as well as collusive in a suspension of the social relation. A further book developing this thinking is planned on the articulation of tragedy as trauma in the arts in France of the 20th century. Mathews has co-translated Gérard Macé, Bois dormant (working with posthumous notes left by David Kelley), to be published in Bloodaxe Contemporary French Poets in 2001 with an introduction by Jean-Pierre Richard.


Through its appointments policy the department has developed its strengths in literary theory, medieval and Renaissance studies, and francophone literature. It has substantially increased its reasearch output as a result of these appointments. It has looked to the future both in terms of junior appointments and the interdisciplinary nature of all the appointments made, which has also increased its ability to engage through textual criticism with a broad range of cultural issues. The department plans to develop further by addressing the following issues at departmental level and beyond: 1. the further rationalisation of administration through still closer partnerships with central UCL structures: essential in nurturing long-term research and the new thinking required. 2. a further nurturing of the collaborative strands in the department’s research with a view to taking advantage of AHRB funding opportunities.

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Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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