Personal profile

Personal profile

Having studied and taught at the University of Aberdeen, I joined Royal Holloway as a Lecturer in French, before being promoted to Senior Lecturer. In 2004 I became Professor of Modern French Literary and Visual Culture. I have served as Director of French at various points over the years.

Research interests

I have published widely on 20th- and 21st-century poetry and visual art, focusing especially on the French and European avant-gardes (primarily Dada, but also Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, Situationism, OuLiPo, etc). My authored book Arp: Painter, Poet, Sculptor (Yale University Press) was awarded the R. H. Gapper Book Prize in 2007. Building on this long-standing engagement with Arp, I co-curated the international touring exhibition Arp: The Poetry of Forms (Kröller-Müller Museum and Turner Contemporary, 2017-18) and co-authored the accompanying book, Arp: The Poetry of Forms (2017, with Frances Guy). I have also co-authored books on other modern artists: Schwitters Miró Arp (2016, with Dieter Buchhart, William Jeffett and Gwendolen Webster); Words Without Thoughts Never to Heaven Go (2018, with Dieter Buchhart and Richard Shiff); and Jean-Michel Basquiat | Xerox (2019, with Dieter Buchhart and Christopher Stackhouse). My interest in bilingual writers from Alsace-Lorraine has led to authored and co-edited books on René Schickele (1995) and Yvan and Claire Goll (1997), while the diverse creative practices of Dada and Surrealism are explored in my co-edited book on the poet Robert Desnos (2006) and the two volumes Dada and Beyond Vol. 1: Dada Discourses (2011) and Dada and Beyond Vol. 2: Dada and its Legacies (2012). My recent monograph, Blaise Cendrars: the Invention of Life (2022) examines the poetry, novels, essays and autobiographical prose of this extraordinary Modernist writer as well as his collaborations with some of the most important artists of his time. The 2022 book Joan Miró: Feet on the Ground, Eyes on the Stars explores what I describe as this artist's 'terrestrial transcendentalism'. The relationship between the ground (understood as the earth and the picture surface) and the sky in Miró's  pictorial language also forms the conceptual thrust of the accompanying exhibition at Luxembourg + Co in New York (see below).

Research interests (continued)

My research has led me to give talks, write essays and contribute to exhibitions for art museums and galleries, including  Almine Rech Gallery (New York), Arp Museum (Bahnhof Rolandseck, Germany), Stiftung Arp (Berlin), Cabaret Voltaire (Zurich), Connaught Brown (London), Hauser & Wirth (Zurich, London, Los Angeles, Somerset, Hong Kong, Gstaad), Kröller-Müller Museum (Otterlo, Netherlands), Luxembourg + Co (London and New York), Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (Strasbourg), Nahmad Contemporary (New York), Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas, USA) and Turner Contemporary (Margate, UK). 

In 2017, I was the 'talking head' on two short films on Hans Jean Arp and René Schickele that were shown as part of the exhibition Laboratoire d’Europe: Strasbourg 1880-1930 curated by the Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg. In September 2018, I presented a paper, Words Without Borders: Arp's Bilingual Poetry at the symposium held to mark the opening of the exhibition The Nature of Arp at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas. The panel discussion can be viewed here.

In November 2018, I took part in a radio discussion for Resonance FM on French writers and the First World War.

My analysis of Catalan artist Joan Miró's highly innovative paintings, drawings and collages of the 1920s and '30s forms the rationale behind the exhibition 'Joan Miró: Feet on the Ground, Eyes on the Stars. Works from 1924 to 1936.' This exhibition, hosted by Luxembourg + Co from September to November 2022, inaugurates the gallery's new premises located in New York's historic Fuller Building, where Miró's first US exhibition took place in 1932.  


I typically teach on most or all of the following courses:

FR1105 The Visual Image in French Culture and Society

FR1113 French History Through Film

FR2004 French-English Translation

FR2106 Cinema in France: from Modernism to the Postmodern

FR2107 The Illustrated Text in France

FR3113 Text and Image in France from Cubism to the Present

ML1102 The Birth of Film

ML1301 Visual Arts 1: Artists and their Materials

ML2302 Visual Arts 2: Genres and Movements

ML3202 From Aestheticism to the Avant-Garde

I have supervised and advised postgraduates working on modern and contemporary French literature (especially poetry), translingual writing, French and German autobiography, Dada, Surrealism, 19th- and 20th-century literature and dance, and modern and contemporary poetry, painting and sculpture.

I would be pleased to hear from those interested in undertaking postgraduate research in any of these areas. Interdisciplinary and comparative approaches are especially welcome.


Member of the AHRC Peer Review College

Member of the International Advisory Board, Wenshan Review of Literature and Culture

Member of International Association of Word and Image Studies

Member of Executive Committee, Society for French Studies (2014-17)

Educational background

I studied French and German (MA Hons) at the University of Aberdeen, where I also did my PhD and taught French before coming to Royal Holloway. While researching my PhD I also worked briefly as a Translator for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Other work

I have examined PhD, MPhil and DPhil theses at the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London (Birkbeck, Goldsmiths, King’s College, Royal Holloway, UCL, University of London Institute in Paris), Nottingham, Oxford (St Anne’s, St John’s, Merton, New College, Ruskin School of Art, Wolfson), Paris-Sorbonne, Royal College of Art, and Trinity College Dublin. I have also examined taught undergraduate or postgraduate degrees at the universities of Aberdeen, Durham, Essex, Glasgow, King’s College London, Kent and Oxford Brookes. In 2009 and 2021, I served as examiner for the award of Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches (HDR*) at the Université d' Avignon and Sorbonne-Université, Paris. (*In the French university system, successful completion of the HDR is a requirement for supervising PhD students and applying for professorial positions).

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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