Month: February 2014

Siân Reynolds wins the Gapper Book Prize for 2013

We are delighted to announce that Siân Reynolds (Professor Emerita of French at Stirling) has been awarded the prestigious Gapper Book Prize for 2013 by the Society for French Studies for Marriage and Revolution: Monsieur & Madame Roland (Oxford University Press).

Here’s what the prize jury had to say about the book:
“Covering just a decade or so at the end of the 18th century, this book’s range is immensely broad: a social history of marriage and of marriage practices, a biography of two individuals and of a marriage—one of the most original aspects of the book—and a complex history of the first several phases of the revolution and these activists’ engagement with its treacherous political and intellectual terrain. Attempting to fit two personal biographies into a political and historical puzzle and to flesh out two individuals who are known to have played an important part in the revolution, leading to the Terror, is already impressive. What Reynolds does further is to mesh the personal entirely with the political, without sacrificing subtlety, and the psychological with the social. This is feminist scholarship at its most current and at its very best. While M Roland receives serious attention, Mme Roland is in many senses the star of the book—largely because there is more material on her—but the refusal to see her only as a woman, only as a wife, only as a mother, only as a political innovator and rabble-rouser, only as a prolific writer, is gratifying. As one partial identity piles upon the next, this insistence on the fully rounded portrait pays dividends; and though the argument is modest (i.e. no claims for being the definitive account), it is extremely persuasive (while acknowledging throughout the evasiveness of history and the unreliability and subjective interpretation of historical documents).
Marriage and Revolution

Never intrusive or showy, the rhetoric supports the argument rather than the contrary. Its impact on the fields of 18th-century thought & literature, the Revolution, the history of women writers, and biography/autobiography studies will be immense. The Rolands emerge from this tragic tale as a couple of dreamers—slightly inflexible, a bit taken with themselves and their public image, endlessly interested in the effects that their writing might one day have on the public. Most importantly, the reader must take account of Mme Roland as a major figure of, and apologist for, radical political theory. Reynolds shows her not as pushy wife or duped woman or scapegoat but as a willing and self-sacrificing player in a dangerous and deadly game. With this updated view in mind, Mme Roland’s writings take on increased importance as an example of engagé autobiographical writing and Reynolds’ work offers a brilliant example of situated, materialist biography.”

Another of our Stirling colleagues, Aédin ní Loingsigh, was commended by the 2010 Gapper Prize Jury for her book Postcolonial Eyes: Intercontinental Travel in Francophone African Literature.

Both books are available in all good bookshops…

Camus at the Institut remixed by a Belgian DJ…


2013 was the centenary of the birth of Albert Camus, something we marked at Stirling by adding L’Etranger to the works on our second year modules. With this in mind we’re intrigued by the description of an event taking place at the Institut Français in Edinburgh on 20 and 21 March:

“An interdisciplinary visual and oral experience based on L’Etranger read by Albert Camus himself (from a 1954 recording) and mixed live with contemporary electronic music by Belgian DJ Pierre de Mûelenaere. Original images mixed live by the video artists Orchid Bites are simultaneously superimposed over the recitation.”

There’s a brief trailer on the Institut website and details of how to get hold of tickets (£5 for Institut members, £8 for non-members) can also be found there.

Other forthcoming events at the Institut include free screenings of the brilliant documentary La Maison de la radio on 4 and 5 March (a must for all fans of French radio!) and a talk in French on the Third Republic given by Patrick Landri.

Gothic publication


Not directly news about ‘French at Stirling’ but a) he’s a colleague of ours in the Division of Literature and Languages and b) the book has a chapter on “Gothic Translation: France, 1760-1830”, so… congratulations to Dale Townshend (and Glennis Byron) on the publication of their edited volume The Gothic World, just out with Routledge!

From French at Stirling to Kenya, Guatemala, Costa Rica, France, Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic and beyond…

We’re always delighted when former students get back in touch to let us know where their degree has taken them. Few of our former students have ended up collecting quite as many airmiles as Susan Peattie! It’s great to see how a degree in French can open so many doors, going way beyond the limits of the Francophone world…

“My name is Susan Peattie and I graduated in 2011 with a BA Hons in French and Spanish. I really enjoyed my time at University of Stirling. At 38, I was a mature student and before starting my course I had worked in the Jobcentre for fifteen years.

Prior to starting my studies, I went to Mombasa in Kenya to teach in a primary school for a few months. During my time there, I helped at Calvary Zion Children’s Home. On my return from Kenya, my friends and I founded a charity in Scotland and we raise funds to help with the education costs for the 44 children at the home.

In my first year, I found the challenge of doing advanced French tough at times, as I had done the Higher in just six months, and I realised I did not have a good grounding of the basics like the younger students who had studied French for several years at school. Also, I had never written an academic essay before in my life, but with the help of the staff and a few good books, my confidence grew!

I loved having the opportunity to spend a year abroad. I went to Guatemala, where I taught in a school run by a UK based charity, Education for the Children . The children have very tough lives living in poor conditions and very often with serious family problems to cope with too. I lived with a local family, and as I was teaching in Spanish, by the end of my time there, I was dreaming in Spanish! I then travelled to Costa Rica and I lived in a hut near to the beach on the Osa Peninsula. Here I helped at a conservation project and we monitored sea turtle activity. The aim of the project being to protect the nesting sites in order to increase sea turtle numbers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I then spent six months in France studying at three private language schools in Bordeaux, Montpellier and Chambery. Up until this time, my degree included Professional Education, so on my return to university life I had to complete a placement. I went to the placement, but I felt really unsettled. The teachers were obviously under pressure to achieve results, complete endless paper work and my impression was that teaching the kids was something that just got “fitted in” if time allowed! I am not sure if my year out in the wider world was at the root of this or the fact that I did not want to join another rat race, but I made the decision to change my degree to French and Spanish only.

I graduated in 2011 in absentia because I had taken up the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro in order to raise funds for the children’s home in Mombasa. After the climb, I travelled by bus up to Mombasa to spend the rest of the summer with the children. When my friends there discovered that I had missed my graduation, they decided to give me a graduation party. Seventy people attended, two goats were slaughtered and they had even found me a gown to wear! They sang a beautiful Swahili song for me and it was a fantastic afternoon I will always remember. Here I am being fed cake – another tradition in Kenya!

Graduation Lunch
Graduation Lunch

As I still wanted to teach, I completed a TEFL course with the intention of working in a French or Spanish speaking country. However, I saw a vacancy for a Kindergarten Teacher in Almaty, Kazakhstan and I applied as I felt it would be a great life experience. I was delighted to get the job, started in August 2011 and worked there for two years. It truly was an amazing experience. The kids were fantastic, as were the people I met there, the culture and architecture was great to see too. The minus 25 winter temperatures took a bit of getting used to though!

Today, I am in Vsetín, a sleepy town in the south east of the Czech Republic close to the Slovak border. We are surrounded by hills and there are endless hiking and cycling trails to enjoy. Here, I work for a private language school teaching English to children, teens and adults. The Czech people are very welcoming and hospitable, often inviting us to their villages for local festivals or their house for dinner! Susan Costumes

Teaching English as a second language is a great job, and for me the best part of moving to a new country is meeting new people and discovering the culture and customs of the country. In the future, I definitely plan to work in French and Spanish speaking countries. Although I have not really used my languages to any great extent since graduating, there is no doubt that having a language degree has given me an in depth knowledge of grammar and an insight into how it is for the students learning a foreign language. Also, most language schools require a degree in order to apply.

I have no idea where my journey will take me in the future, but I think that is all part of the excitement!”

We wish Susan all the best for the future and look forward to hearing more about her travels and experiences across the globe.

Literature and Languages Research Seminar Series

More good news, looking ahead to the semester that’s about to begin, in the shape of a lively and diverse range of research seminars organised within the Division of Literature and Languages, organised by our colleague Angus Vine.

The full programme follows below – all welcome!

Wednesday 12 February

Professor Mary Ellis Gibson (University of Glasgow)

‘The “Indian Mutiny” in Sonnets: A Scottish Missionary’s Daughter Caught Between Sorrow and Vengeance’

Wednesday 26 February

Dr Sarah Parker (University of Stirling, Impact Fellow)

‘Publicity, Celebrity, Fashion: Photographing Edna St. Vincent Millay’

 Wednesday 5 March

Dr Alex Davis (University of St Andrews)

‘Leaving Behind, Staying On: Fictional Testaments from Chaucer to Shakespeare’

Wednesday 19 March

Dr Dale Townshend (University of Stirling)

‘Romancing the Bastille: Architecture and the Gothic Imagination, 1715-1800’

Wednesday 2 April

Dr Cristina Johnston (University of Stirling)

‘Tehran, Vienna, Paris: The Cultural Geographies of Persepolis’

Wednesday 16 April

Dr Bob Irvine (University of Edinburgh)

‘A Night at the Theatre with Robert Burns: Dumfries and the rhetoric of “Reform”’

Wednesday 23 April

Dr Suzanne Gilbert (University of Stirling)

‘Hogg’s Journeys and the Highlands in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals’

Wednesday 30 April

Presentations on Research – Final-Year PhD Students

All seminars take place in Pathfoot, E26, 15:30-17:00. Drinks are served afterwards. For further information please contact Angus Vine (

Spring Semester News

It’s good to be able to start the 2014 blog entries with some excellent ‘French at Stirling’ news so…

Hearty congratulations to our PhD student Jamal Bahmad who successfully defended his thesis on Moroccan cinema in January. Jamal’s thesis is entitled ‘Casablanca Belongs to Us: Globalisation, Everyday Life and Postcolonial Subjectivity in Moroccan Cinema since the 1990s’ and, during his studies under the supervision of David Murphy, he published articles on New Urban Moroccan Cinema in Francosphères, the Middle East Journal of Cultural Communication, and in the Journal of North African Studies. Best wishes to Jamal for the future!

If you’re interested in coming to undertake postgraduate work in French and Francophone Studies at Stirling, the School of Arts and Humanities is offering a number of research postgraduate bursaries at £6000 per annum for students starting a research degree programme in the coming academic year 2014-15. Further information about these bursaries can be found here and staff in French welcome enquiries from prospective applicants.

Our fields of expertise range from African cinemas and cultures to sexualities and Republicanism in contemporary France via pied noir history and postcolonial feminism, travel writing, early cinema, Quebec politics and film and much else besides. Full details of staff research interests and contact details can be found via the Staff pages here. (We live in the Division of Literature and Languages so just click through those links!)