|PhD Research in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures|
Before coming to Durham to begin my PhD, I studied for an MRes at the University of London’s Institute of Modern Languages Research where I received the Cassal Bursary for French and Francophone Study. Prior to this, I read French and German at the University of Bristol where I held a Vice-Chancellor’s Music Scholarship and was awarded the Anna Crossman Prize upon graduating. While still a Bristol undergraduate, my first journal article – on Giuseppe Verdi’s adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s Don Karlos – was published in German Life and Letters.
While my academic background is primarily in modern languages and literatures, I have maintained a keen interest in musicology thanks largely to my work as a freelance trumpet player. Over the years I have performed with numerous high profile ensembles, including the English Session Orchestra, Not So Silent Movies, the Locrian Ensemble, and the Bristol Ensemble, as well as several pit orchestras (both on and off West End). I was also a BBC Young Musician of the Year brass category finalist in 2016.
In the first half of the sixteenth century, a humanist monk-turned-doctor from the Loire valley named François Rabelais (c.1494-1553) began composing satirical works of pseudo-epic fiction about the deeds and exploits of a utopian giant called Pantagruel, his father Gargantua, and their regular-sized friends. These texts – at times deeply erudite; at others downright dirty – spread through France like wildfire, delighting and disgusting readers of the day with tales of Parisian piss-floods, mass sheep drowning, and, of course, mischievous monks a’monking. Following their publication, Rabelais’s texts enjoyed a rich and varied afterlife, crossing geographic, socio-economic, and medial borders, finding their way into all sorts of odd and unexpected corners of European culture.
At its core, my PhD is a study of one such corner: the ‘adaptations’ of Rabelais’s texts on the musical stage of long nineteenth-century France. Like the texts they adapt, these six stage works resist generic and socio-cultural categorisation, subverting – sometimes self-consciously, sometimes not – the aesthetic and ideological expectations of a turbulent century that lurched (often violently) between republic, monarchy, and empire. During this time, writers from every echelon of French culture turned to Rabelais for inspiration. But why? Who was Rabelais to these writers? What does their choice of primary material tell us about these composers and librettists? What place did they think they occupied in the ever-unfolding story of French culture? How did their nineteenth-century aesthetic relate to Rabelais’s sixteenth-century style? And crucially, how might all this change our theories of adaptation, imitation, and reception?
While attempting to answer these questions, we will encounter dragons, shipwrecks, goblin choirs, distressed damsels, dastardly dukes, and dancing sausages. We will seek out the golden fleece, allocate the apple of discord, flee our fiancées, fall in love, and toast our own temerity with gallons (and gallons and gallons) of wine. We will undermine autocracies and backchat the bourgeoisie, cause a scandal, make a scene, dance with death, and find romance: all to the blasts of brass, the cries of the chorus, and the thunderous applause or acute antipathy of an ever capricious and constantly shifting audience.
- Nineteenth-century France
- French language and literature
- Opera, music theatre, and stage performance
- Adaptation, imitation, and intertextuality
- Late medieval and early modern studies
- Comparative and intermedial literature
- The work of François Rabelais
- 0000: Journal Officer for the Medieval and Early Modern Student Association (MEMSA):