Browse/search for people

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:

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