Dr Helena Duffy

Personal profile

I came to Royal Holloway in 2016 in order to carry out a EU-funded research project, ‘Un passé qui ne passe pas: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Contemporary French Holocaust Literature’. As Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow, I was working closely with Professor Robert Eaglestone (English) and other members of the Holocaust Research Institute. On the completion of the project, in August 2018, I was appointed Teaching Fellow in French and Comparative Literature in the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

Prior to arriving at Royal Holloway, I taught French language and culture in other UK universities (Hull, Oxford Brookes), as well as in Australia (University of Queensland, University of New England), France (Université Blaise–Pascal, Clermont–Ferrand) and Poland (Uniwersytet Wrocławski).

My research interests lie with contemporary French culture and comparative literature, with a special focus on representations of World War II and the Holocaust, postmodernism, and narrative ethics. Having completed an MSt at Lady Margaret Hall (University of Oxford) and a PhD at Oxford Brookes University, I have published widely on the prose of non-native French writers (Andreï Makine, Milan Kundera, Rodica Iulian, Jonathan Littell) and filmmakers (Andrzej Żuławski, Lydia Bobrova). More recently, I have directed my attention to the literary depictions of the Holocaust and the ethical questions raised by the deployment of postmodern narrative techniques and tropes in novels addressing the sensitive subject of the Jewish tragedy. Pursuing my interest in the Nazi genocide and the postmodern attentiveness to the ‘silenced Other’, I am now embarking on a transcultural investigation of literary portrayals of Jewish mothers in extremis and in particular of the ‘choiceless choices’ these women faced in relation to their offspring.

My study of the oeuvre of the contemporary Franco-Russian novelist, Andreï Makine, culminated in my recently published monograph World War II in Andreï Makine’s Historiographic Metafiction: No One Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Forgotten (Brill, 2018). I am also the author of numerous journal articles, essays, book chapters and book reviews. My publications have appeared in journals such as Forum for Modern Language StudiesModern and Contemporary France, French Studies, Journal of War and Culture StudiesHolocaust StudiesDapim: Studies on the HolocaustFrench Forum, or Essays in French Literature and Culture. I have also contributed to volumes such as Writing Holocaust Today (Rodopi, 2012) or Contemporary Fiction in French (Cambridge University Press, 2019). In my career, I have organised conferences, guest lectures and research workshops, and have given many invited talks, speaking at, among others, the University Bar-Ilan in Tel Aviv and the Wiener Library in London. Finally, I have served as guest editor for the Journal of Holocaust Research, French Forum,Romanica Wratislaviensia, and Lublin Studies in Modern Languages and Literature

At Royal Holloway, I teach French and Comparative Literature, including the works of Marcel Proust, Gustave Flaubert, François Mauriac, Graham Greene, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Simone de Beauvoir. I also teach French language and literary theory, and, as exemplified by FR1112, courses that have been directly informed by my interest in postmodern Holocaust fiction. Continuing my collaboration with the Holocaust Research Institute, this spring I will be once again guiding the students of the MA in Holocaust Studies around the sites of Paris that evoke the persecution of Jews living on French territory under the Vichy regime. 

Teaching 2018/2019:

Term 1

FR2009W Pratique du français II

FR1112 The Individual and Society (F. Mauriac, Therese; Ph. Claudel, Brodeck)

ML1203 Reading Texts: Criticism for Comparative Literature (G. Flaubert, A Simple Heart)

LA1000 Liberal Arts 1: Cultural Encounters (Theoretical Encounters)

Term 2

FR2009W Pratique du français II

FR2101 Writing Romance and Desire (G. Flaubert, Madame Bovary; M. Proust, Swann in Love)

ML2205 A Special Theme in the Novel: Transgression (S. de Beauvoir, The Woman Destroyed; G. Greene, The End of the Affair; A. Robbe-Grillet, Jealousy)


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