The Department of French fosters exploratory world-leading research in the arts and humanities related to France and the wider French-speaking world. Our research-led teaching spans a broad historical and geographical range across French studies, reaching from the medieval period to the 21st century and looking at both France and its former empire. We cover a wide and dynamic range of specialisms, including: cultural and socio-political history; film studies; linguistics; literary studies; rhetoric and philosophy; theatre and performance studies; translation; the visual and contemporary arts; and eco-criticism.
Colleagues develop new understanding and share expertise across disciplinary, geographical, and historical areas that represent our internationally recognised departmental strengths:
- Eco-criticism: blending critical approaches of the environmental humanities with the study of material cultures in French literature.
- Francophone Cultures and Post-Colonial History: the transmission of socio-political and cultural ideas through artistic creation, literary production, and religious practice in French-speaking Africa.
- Gender and Sexuality: the construction of gendered identities through and across the French language and French-speaking cultures; masculinity, femininity, and nationhood.
- Language and Communication: sociolinguistics and language change; rhetoric and the history of French-language critical theory, including pyschoanalysis, phenomenology, and deconstruction.
- Medieval France: the chansons de geste, ‘old French’, and early vernacular chronicles; religious tolerance; manuscript culture.
- Politics and Conflict: the intellectual history of political commitment; literatures and cultures of war and occupation, from the Napoleonic Wars to the Second World War and the Algerian War of Independence.
- Renaissance History and Culture: the poetics and politics of French vernacular writing in the 16th century; interactions during the early modern period between different disciplines, including natural history.
- Translation and Adaptation Studies: how French stories travel across different cultures, from Meiji Japan to post-war America, and different media, from print and digital to film and live performance.
- Visual Culture: film aesthetics and experimentation; performance studies; the relationship between word and image, especially since the 19th century; graffiti; installation art; painting; photography; performance; poetry; and video art.
The department played a leading role in the recently completed ‘Charlemagne in England’ project, funded by the AHRC. It has held five major grant awards from the ERC (Starting Grant), AHRC (Leadership Fellowship; Global Challenges Research) and the Leverhulme Trust (International Network; Early Career Fellowship, Research Fellowship), in addition to a number of other funding successes, both external and internal, such as the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow:
- Professor Marianne Ailes (PI), ‘Charlemagne: A European Icon. Charlemagne in Different European Cultures’, Leverhulme International Network, 2015-2018
- Dr Ruth Bush, ‘Popular Print and Reading Cultures in Francophone Africa’, AHRC Global Challenges Research Funding 2016-2017 and 'Creative Lives of African Universities', ERC grant, 2021-2026
- Professor Susan Harrow, 'Letterworlds: epistolarity and the inter-art community in France,1848–1902', Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2019-20)
- Professor Martin Hurcombe, ‘Reclaiming the Road’, Brigstow Institute Experimental Partnership 2016
- Dr Philippa Lewis, ‘A Cultural and Literary History of Shyness in Nineteenth-Century France’, Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship 2015-2018
- Dr Damien Mooney, ‘Language and Dialect Death in Béarn, France’, British Academy Small Research Grant 2016
- Professor Siobhán Shilton, ‘Art and the Arab Spring’, University of Bristol Research Fellowship 2016-2017
- Dr Clare Siviter, 'Surveilling the Stage: Censorship and Subjectivity in the Age of the Revolution', Leverhulme Research Fellowship, 2020-2021
- Dr Bradley Stephens, ‘Masculinity Studies for an Age of Global Uncertainty’, Institute for Advanced Studies Research Workshop Series 2016-2017
- Dr Rowan Tomlinson, ‘Scholars, Hacks, and Gentleman: the Politics of Authorship in Renaissance France’, AHRC Leadership Fellowship 2016-2018
- Centre for Medieval Studies
- Centre for the Study of Visual and Literary Cultures
- Centre for Black Humanities
Collaborations and activities
The department is currently developing ties with partners across Europe in order to launch a major project on the contrasts and commonalities that have defined public discourses around moments of crisis in modern European history.
Such cross-national collaboration is at the heart of a network where Bristol French has taken the lead as part of the 2016 Writivism festival in Uganda (recently receiving a commendation in the University’s Public Engagement Awards).
The department also continues to build on previous work that has explored the influence and popularity of French literature, thought, and culture with academic and non-academic audiences, including events at venues in Bristol such as the Watershed Arts Complex, Bristol Old Vic, and the Arnolfini Gallery, as well as with partners outside the city (such as the Institut Français and the Mosaic Rooms gallery in London, the Nouvelle Bibliothèque humaniste at Sélestat, and the Société des Amis de Victor Hugo in Paris).
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Research in the Faculty
Our research forms part of the overall research activities and strategies of the Faculty of Arts.