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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Research staff and students

Please see also: http://www.swan.ac.uk/french/members_of_staff.htm

The University regards this Unit of Assessment as making a significant contribution to its research mission in the Humanities. As the largest department in the School of European Languages, French has an important role to play as a catalyst for collaborative developments within the School. The University has accordingly encouraged the postgraduate initiatives led by the department and made research resources available to support them.

At the time of the last RAE the department had a high proportion of staff at a very early stage of their academic careers. These colleagues have now all completed doctorates and become productive researchers. The Department has also lost through retirement a number of experienced scholars (Emeritus Professors Minogue and Cardy, Mr George Evans), all of whom remain active in research and closely associated with the Department. Since 1994, Drs Sarah Alyn-Stacey, Judith Proud, Marie-Claude Canova-Green, Nigel Harkness and Eric Le Calvez have left the Department to take up lectureships in TCD, Plymouth, Goldsmiths, Belfast and Atlanta, Georgia respectively. Dr Nathalie Morello joined the lecturing staff in 1995 shortly after obtaining her PhD (Edinburgh), and Dr Andrew Rothwell (from University of Leeds) was appointed Professor of French and Head of Department in August 1999. During the assessment period PhDs were awarded to three members of staff (Valerie Howells 1994 (Swansea), Nigel Harkness 1996 (Edinburgh), Alison Williams 1998 (Bristol)) and two students (Brian George 1996 and Kimberley Sutherland 2000, who also held a tutorship in the department). One PhD (under the supervision of Prof. Cardy) is due for completion in 2001, and Arnaud Prêtre, appointed to a part-time research assistantship in October 2000, has embarked on a PhD under the supervision of Dr Robin MacKenzie. Professor Rothwell continues to supervise a PhD student registered in Leeds, due to submit her thesis in June 2001.

Professor Gabriel Jacobs, who transferred from the Department of French to the University’s European Business Management School in 1994 but maintains active links with the department, continues to research and publish in the field of French studies, including a number of collaborative projects with Dr Rodgers. Four of his recent publications are listed below:

1. ‘Spectres of Remorse: Duras’s War-time Autobiography’, Romance Studies, 30 (Autumn 1997), 47-57.
2. (with Catherine Rodgers): ‘Un palais des glaces: réflexions du féminisme français sur Internet’, Nouvelles Questions Féministes, 19: 1, 1998, 65-83.
3. ‘The Elemental Brassens’, Romance Studies, 17: 1, 1999, 15-30.
4. ‘Le Violon des Mains négatives: solitaire ou solidaire?’ in C Bergelin and P Gaulmyn (Eds), Lire Duras, Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 2000, pp. 477-88.

Research structure
Research strategy is determined and managed by the Department’s Research Committee, which meets regularly and to which all colleagues and research postgraduates have access. The Committee’s remit is to promote the development of all aspects of the Department’s research activity, including progress monitoring of research students, visiting speaker and research seminar programmes, cross-departmental and inter-institutional collaborations, and postgraduate recruitment.

The Department runs an active programme of research seminars to which all colleagues and postgraduate students are expected to contribute, and a wide-ranging visiting-speaker programme. Visitors in the assessment period have included the distinguished writers Alain Robbe-Grillet, Chantal Chawaf and Annie Ernaux, and scholars Prof. David Crystal (Bangor), Dr Edward Freeman (Bristol), Dr Richard Waller (Liverpool), Dr William Brookes (Bath), Prof. David Trotter (Aberystwyth), Prof. Jean Duffy (Edinburgh), Mr Rodney Sampson (Bristol), M. Claude Keller (Strasbourg), Dr Raphael Salkie (Brighton) and Dr Marie-Eve Ritz (Western Australia). There is an active programme of academic exchange (guest speakers, visiting lecturers) with the Université de Bretagne Occidentale in Brest, with which the Department also collaborates (along with the Department of English) in teaching a unique joint MA/Maîtrise in Modern French and English Language and Literature. Most recently, Professor Hervé Abalain came to the Department from Brest, and Dr Susan Harrow made a return visit to lecture on Zola. Further exchanges are planned for 2001.

A number of international conferences (Texte(s) et Intertexte(s) in 1994, Marguerite Duras in 1996, Association for French Language Studies in 1999) have been organised or co-sponsored by the Department. The biennial Romance Studies colloquia (1995, 1997 and 1999), organised from Swansea and held at the University of Wales’s conference centre at Gregynog (Powys), provide an invaluable opportunity for colleagues and research students to give papers and establish contacts with researchers from other national and international institutions in a relaxed, interdisciplinary environment. Selected papers from these colloquia are subsequently published in the internationally-refereed journal Romance Studies, edited from Swansea and recently re-launched in partnership with Maney Publishing.

Research Facilities
Swansea has very strong library holdings in French language, literature and associated fields, and generous funds are available to build up specific areas quickly in response to evolving staff research interests or the requirements of postgraduate supervision. We are also fortunate in being able to make use of library facilities at other constituent institutions of the Federal University of Wales, notably Cardiff and Aberystwyth (which is of course adjacent to the National Library of Wales). There are no restrictions on Inter-Library Loans, which the department uses extensively.

The University’s CIT infrastructure is very up-to-date (pervasive 100Mbit networking from the individual desktop to the SuperJanet national network, Win2000/Netware 5 servers, latest MS Office applications, wide range of research-orientated networked CD-Roms and Web-based subscription services), making Swansea as good a location as any in the UK from which to conduct electronic research. Because of the dispersed geographical nature of the Federal University, high-bandwidth video conferencing has become a routinely-used technology allowing ‘virtual’ research meetings to take place between sites, potentially anywhere in the world (joint MA vivas with Brest, for instance, are now conducted in this way). All staff in the Department (including the new Research Assistant) have on their desk a PII/PIII PC with up to date software and access to networked scanning and high quality laser printing (including in colour). Training in all aspects of the constantly-evolving skills needed to take maximum advantage of networked electronic research resources is available both from Library and Information Services, and through on-line training packages (the University has subscribed to a suite of Web-based training courses). Extensive satellite TV and video recording and editing resources are also available to staff and PG researchers.

The School of European Languages recently opened its own fully networked 8-station text digitisation centre, funded by competitive internal bid (cost: c. £30k) out of a special QR allocation released by the University. The high-specification facilities of the new centre allow staff and students to convert printed text of all kinds (including newspapers) into machine-readable form. After undergoing various types of markup, the resulting corpus can then be investigated from a linguistic and/or textual point of view using concordancing software, including parallel concordancers which allow study of translation phenomena. The centre, available to staff and postgraduate students across the School, represents a strategic initiative which is already bearing fruit in the research of individual colleagues (e.g. Catherine Rodgers, stylistic analysis of works by Marguerite Duras; Andrew Rothwell, further expansion of the lexicographical corpus of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, which currently stands at 3.5 million words) and has catalysed two major collaborative research bids: to AHRB (with Department of European Languages, Aberystwyth) Anglo-Norman On-Line Hub, and to ESRC (with the Department of Law, Swansea) On-Line Dictionary of Welsh Legal Terminology.

Closely complementary to the digitisation centre are the School’s 18-station Research Postgraduate IT lab (formerly CALL lab), re-equipped in 1999, and new 41-seat CALL and Language Technology facility, funded by a HEFCW infrastructure grant of £100,000 and due to open in September 2001. In order to meet the needs of the new MA in Translation with Language Technology (co-ordinated by Prof. Rothwell and launched in October 2000), the School has made a significant investment in cutting-edge computerised translation and language-processing software for the new lab. While this development is still too recent to have generated additional research activity (though at least one of the MA students plans to continue and register for a PhD), the national level of expertise in these areas that we now possess, together with our unrivalled facilities, give us a strategic opportunity both to develop on an inter-departmental basis existing research in the field, and to launch new projects including the recruitment of more PhD students to Swansea. These developments are being led by the French Department in close collaboration with the School’s Centre for Applied Language Studies, whose staff conduct a wide range of cognate research in areas such as second-language vocabulary acquisition, natural language processing and machine translation.

Supporting interdisciplinary and collaborative research
In addition to providing strong financial assistance for conference attendance at home and abroad, the Department makes every effort to support members of staff engaged in collaborative projects with colleagues working in other fields or institutions by paying travel and other expenses. Notable examples are recent visits to Australia and France by Dr Engel in furtherance of her two collaborative projects in linguistics. A very positive outcome of this support is Dr Engel’s recent appointment to an Honorary Visiting Research Fellowship at University of Western Australia (Sept – November 2001); the Department will receive no material compensation for her absence during that term, but recognises the great intellectual and institutional benefit to be derived from her extended visit.

Over the last year or so the Department has also taken the lead in forming inter-departmental research groups in Translation, Applied Linguistics and Language Technology (involving all the European language departments, English, Centre for Applied Language Studies, School of Computing Science), and European Modernism (language departments, English). The former group has run a particularly successful national and international visiting speaker programme in its first year, with language technology demonstrations and lectures which have attracted regional audiences; the latter has had a slower start but is launching its own speaker programme in 2001. A key purpose of both groups is to offer postgraduates a lively and supportive environment in which to present and refine their research. In the medium term, these groups are also expected to provide a focus for postgraduate recruitment.

The Department has also benefited greatly from its own more informal but productive interest groupings around 18th-century and theatre studies (Michael Cardy, George Evans, Derek Connon), and 19th- and 20th-century narrative studies (Valerie Minogue, Susan Harrow, Valerie Howells, Robin MacKenzie, Nathalie Morello, Catherine Rodgers). These affinities, together with the network of national and international contacts for which they provide a focus, have borne fruit in a remarkable number of collaborative essay volumes in recent years in which younger and senior colleagues have contributed to a given project, in the company of distinguished scholars from other institutions in the UK and abroad. The very well-reviewed volume Narrative Voices in Modern French Fiction: Studies in Honour of Valerie Minogue, edited by Michael Cardy, George Evans and Gabriel Jacobs (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997) was followed in 1998 by Marguerite Duras: lectures plurielles (Amsterdam: Rodopi), the proceedings of the 1996 Duras conference edited by Catherine Rodgers (with R Udris). Essays on French Comic Drama from the 1640s to the 1780s (Bern: Peter Lang, 2000), edited by Derek Connon and George Evans, contains chapters by both editors and Michael Cardy, along with three pieces by young scholars from other institutions and eight by established researchers from Britain, Canada, France and Australia. Edited by Michael Cardy and Derek Connon, Aspects of Twentieth-Century Drama in French (Bern: Peter Lang, 2000) contains chapters by six members of the Department (including the editors), alongside ten others by scholars from Britain and Canada and one by a recent PhD graduate of the Department. Derek Connon and George Evans also joined forces to produce an Anthologie de pièces du Théâtre de la Foire (Egham: Runnymede, 1996), containing 10 out-of-print texts (plus original music) each with critical introduction and notes, and George Evans has collaborated with Dulcie Engel and Valerie Howells to write A French Grammar Workbook (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998). Dr Engel also co-edited (with Florence Myles) an AFLS/CILT-published volume of research papers entitled Teaching Grammar: Perspectives in Higher Education, which was published in 1996.

Staffing Policy
The Departmental timetable is drawn up so as to allow each academic colleague one teaching-free research day per week. Subject to production of a satisfactory research proposal, each permanent academic colleague can expect to enjoy a full semester of study leave in every 8th semester. In addition, a summer term without teaching or examining is made available to one academic per year, either i) a colleague on a fixed-term contract without any formal sabbatical entitlement but who has a strong research project (this is designed to be a career development initiative), or ii) a permanent colleague with a pressing publishing deadline. Conditions of accepting sabbatical leave are to submit a detailed report on outcomes to the University Research Committee, and to contribute to the departmental research seminar programme in the following semester.

Staff and research students are strongly encouraged to submit proposals for conferences and conference papers. The Department allocates as much of its budget as possible to support conference attendance and research visits by staff and postgraduates. In recent years it has succeeded in covering the expenses of staff giving papers, though not always of those simply attending conferences, and in making a substantial contribution to expenses incurred on research visits. Staff are encouraged to develop actively the library holdings in their specialist fields and related areas (new publishers’ catalogues are circulated for selection). The department is also able to fund all Inter-Library Loans for staff and postgraduates.

The research priorities and progress of individual colleagues are monitored and supported through regular informal consultations with the head of department, and more formally through the University’s biennial appraisal cycle. Research students are subject to a 6-monthly review of progress by the Graduate School. The Research Committee of the University requires departments to submit updated publications details on an annual basis.

The research of junior colleagues on probation is actively fostered through the mentoring system, and all less experienced colleagues are encouraged to attend and give research seminars from which valuable feedback can be gained. New colleagues are given a light teaching timetable and administrative load in their first year to allow them to establish their research activity, and required to attend research-related staff development events run by SDU and/or Library and Information Services.

The Department’s new part-time Research Assistant, M. Arnaud Prêtre (ancien normalien, Agrégé de l’Université) was appointed from October 2000 to work with our Proust specialist, Dr Robin MacKenzie. His thesis topic, Time in the works of Proust and Thomas Mann, exemplifies the interdisciplinary, collaborative research ethos which the Department is concerned to foster within the School of European Languages. His research is co-supervised by Dr Duncan Large, Department of German, and he will be contributing in due course to the programme of the inter-departmental research group in European Modernism.

Additional Observations
Translation of various types has occupied members of the department over the period, meshing with and informing their other research. Dr Addinall is a traducteur assermenté and member of the Institute of Linguists National Register of Public Service Interpreters, working predominantly in the legal field, while other colleagues have been active in literary translation. In 1994 Michael Cardy published his monumental Pierre Pouchot: "Memoirs on the Late War in North America between France and England" (text edited and annotated by Brian L. Dunnigan; Youngstown: Old Fort Niagara Association, 568 pp.). Andrew Rothwell has published translations of essays by Colette Guillaumin, in Racism, Sexism, Power and Ideology (London: Routledge, 1995; with Maxim Silverman), and selected poetry of Jacques Dupin and Jean-Michel Maulpoix, in David Kelly and Jean Khalfa (eds), The New French Poetry. (Newcastle uponTyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1996). His translation of Bernard Noël’s poem Exercice d’amour for a CD produced by Radio France in 1996 was followed by that of a long text by the poet on the painter Opalka in Christine Savinel, Jacques Roubaud, Bernard Noël, Roman Opalka (Paris: Editions Dis Voir, 1996). For the same publisher he has translated essays on contemporary designers Ron Arad (1997), Borek Sipek (1998), Jasper Morrison (1999) and ‘Les Enfants de Starck’ (1999), and on film-makers Wong Kar-Wai (1997) and Tsaï Ming-liang (1999). He has recently embarked on translations of two film-scripts by Bruno Dumont and a monograph on the director, also for Editions Dis Voir. He has also translated Jacques Derrida’s essay ‘Prégnances’ on the painter Colette Deblé for an exhibition of her work which he organised in 1998 at the University Gallery, Leeds.
As is increasingly being recognised, translation is a highly analytical activity which mobilises a complex mix of linguistic and cultural competences and knowledge. It complements and brings new insights to both linguistic and literary areas of research, building a bridge between two traditionally rather separate aspects of the discipline. Our taught postgraduate programmes, which will in due course feed into PhD recruitment, have been re-structured around the interface between technical translation and IT on the one hand, literary translation and literature on the other. It is therefore of strategic importance for the department’s (and the School’s) future research plans to have professionally-active translators on the staff.


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Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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