Projects per year
- French literature from the nineteenth century onwards
- French Romanticism, especially the life and works of Victor Hugo (1802-85)
- literary adaptation and reception theory
- gender and masculinity studies
My publications and public engagement activities primarily focus on cutting through the clichés surrounding Victor Hugo and other iconic male figures from French literature to reveal new insights into their writing and its reception. My most recent project was a biography of Hugo in Reaktion Books' 'Critical Lives' series in 2019, reviewed by The Times Literary Supplement as 'a succint but nuanced appraisal of Hugo's life and works [that] succeeds in its mission to look beyond the clichés and to paint the "arch Romantic" in all his turbulent complexity'. The writer and statesman behind much-loved stories like Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris (better known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) has a fascinating story of his own that helps us to understand both his massive body of work and his enduring influence. The research for this study underpins my current project on the poetics and politics of masculinity in Hugo's career, which develops my broader interest in the cultural capital of male French writers.
I have spoken about my work at conferences in the UK and USA and at Literary Festivals in London, Guernsey, and Bristol, in addition to writing opinion pieces for both The Guardian and The Huffington Post, and being interviewed by BBC Radio, the L.A.Times, and Dagbladet.
Previous Research Projects
My first project, emerging from my PhD, examined the overlooked connections between Romantic and Existentialist thinking through two of France's most celebrated writers. The main findings were published in my first single-authored book, Victor Hugo, Jean-Paul Sartre and the Liability of Liberty (Legenda, 2011). My subsequent project explored the legacy of Hugo's most famous novel. 'Les Mìsérables' and its Afterlives: Between Page, Stage, and Screen, co-edited with Kathryn M. Grossman (Routledge, 2015), offers new readings of both the epic bestseller and its prolific adaptations; the second, Approaches to Teaching Hugo's Les Mìsérables, co-edited with Michal P. Ginsburg (MLA, 2018), develops new approaches to teaching this literary classic (as part of the Modern Language Association of America's 'Approaches to Teaching World Literature' series).
PhD and MA Supervision
I have supervised MA theses on multimedia adaptation and on translation projects relating to modern French literature, including modernist prose, postmodern writing, and children's fiction. I have co-supervised PhD and MPhil theses on a range of subjects, including:
- French women Romantic writers and nationhood (which resulted in Stacie Allan's 2018 monograph study Writing the Self, Writing the Nation)
- the fantastic in late nineteenth-century French and German fiction
- le merveilleux scientifique in late nineteenth-century French literature
- Jules Verne's utopian narratives
- the figure of the priest in love or prêtre amoureux in French Romantic fiction
External Examiner (French), University of Manchester2018 → 2022
External Examiner (French), University of Birmingham2015 → 2019
External Examiner in Modern Languages, Nottingham Trent UniversityAug 2012 → Aug 2016
Research Output per year
Research output: Book/Report › Authored book
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Cosette? Femininity and the Changing Face of Victor Hugo’s 'Alouette'Stephens, B., 27 Jun 2019, In : Modern Languages Open. 1, 28 p., 5.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article (Academic Journal)
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter in a book
Activities per year