I was educated in various state schools in the DOM-TOM, before reading French and English at Paris IV, Sorbonne. I then sat my agrégationin French literature and language and taught in secondary schools in France for two years.
I came to the UK for an M.Phil in European culture at Cambridge, and carried on with a PhD as the Knox scholar at Trinity college. I then took a junior research fellowship at Newnham college, before heading for two years to Australia to work on Jesuits within the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE). I came back to Cambridge in 2015 to join the ERC project ‘Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science’ at CRASSH.
I took the post of tutorial fellow in French at Magdalen in 2018, where I am also the coordinator for Modern Languages and Joint Schools.
I work at the crossroads of the intellectual history and literature of early modern France and Europe envisaged from a global perspective. My research provides early modern genealogies to the very notions of identity–the country, the nation, the self–that contemporary transcultural and post-colonial discourses seek to interrogate. Humanism itself was one such transcultural phenomenon: early modern vernacular accounts of nation and selfhood arise from the translation, creative assimilation but also critique of a past classical heritage. The transnational Republic of Letters, whose network relayed humanist erudition and the travel narratives of cultural encounters in colonial outposts, also played a crucial part in early modern delineations of anthropological, political and confessional identities.
My first book, Cosmographical Novelties: Dialectic and Discovery in Early Modern French Prose (Brepols, 2016) highlights the ways in which the humanist retrieval of classical logic and rhetoric provided early modern thinkers with the discursive toolkit they needed in order to shape and disseminate in new vernacular genres the worldviews arising from the so-called Scientific Revolution and from the Great Voyages.
With the support of the Leverhulme Trust, I will be on research leave in 2021-22 in order to write my second book, The Ingenious Animal: The Physiology of Invention in Rabelaisian Fiction. This book intends to offer a new reading of the grotesque in Rabelais works by reconciling the belly and the head. Envisaged from a medical perspective, culture–whether high humanism or medieval farce–is the spirited outcome of our animation, our ensoulment. For Rabelais the writer-physician, our guts and our brain where the labyrinthine crucibles where such animation was kindled: both, anatomical arabesques too.
I teach Magdalen undergraduates the first-year Prelims course in French. For Honours, I teach second and final years sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts (papers VII and X). I also teach translation into French and from early modern French.
I lecture across the period. I focus on the close reading of texts and to actors category: the past may well be a foreign country, yet one way of making it familiar is to try to speak the language. I teach with rare books in Magdalen library as much as possible. I am deeply committed to access: foreign languages and their cultures are for all. I never assume linguistic or cultural fluency in French from my incoming students: a lot of curiosity and a deep interest for the language and its literature is what I care for to start with.
With Jenny Oliver, I convene the MsT and MPhil seminar on early modern inventions. With Wes Williams, I am currently supervising the D.Phil of Alexander Lawrence, which focuses on the toucan in early modern France and beyond.
I welcome applications from prospective postgraduate students working on early modern French and European (neo-Latin) texts, especially those interested in the interplay between scientific culture and literature, wanting to read travel narratives, to investigate diplomatic encounters, or to explore early modern translation.