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Dr Philippa Lewis

My research focuses on French literature of the long nineteenth century with an emphasis on cultural history, the history of emotions, and the medical humanities. I seek to recover a more supple vision of nineteenth-century cultural production and reception by working across genres and forms, and between disciplines. My first book, Intimacy and Distance: Conflicting Cultures in Nineteenth-Century France (Legenda, 2017), argues for a historicisation of the concept of intimacy. Through close readings of a diverse range of genres (verse, diaries, novels, travel literature), I show that intimacy and its lexicon came increasingly to the fore in the post-Revolutionary period as a new, but often contentious, tool for articulating the literary and artistic encounter. I analyse writing by both canonical and under-researched authors including Baudelaire, Flaubert, Sainte-Beuve, and the diarist Eugénie de Guérin. More information is available here: www.mhra.org.uk/publications/Intimacy-Distance

I continue to work on the relationship between literature and emotion in my current book project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and provisionally entitled Strange Sensibility: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Shyness in Post-Revolutionary France. While nineteenth-century France might have been fascinated by spectacles of ambition and excess, I propose that it was also, and as a result, intrigued by the antithetical experience of shyness. Tracing the narratives of shyness visible in moral, literary, and medical texts, the project explores the meanings of this experience for a nation increasingly constructed around the rhetoric of shared sociability. In doing so, I not only cast new light on modern French culture but extend recent Anglo-American studies of shyness by showing how we can approach the emotion both historically and comparatively. Alongside the monograph, two articles based on this research are forthcoming next year and a conference is planned for June 2018.

Research keywords: nineteenth-century France; history of emotions; medical humanities; shyness studies; life-writing; authorship