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Photo of Dr Helena Taylor

Dr Helena Taylor

Postdoctoral Research Fellow


01392 724235

I came to Exeter in September 2015 as Lecturer in French Studies (E&R), having held a Laming Junior Research Fellowship at The Queen's College, Oxford. Prior to this, I completed my DPhil, a Masters in European Literature, and a BA in French and Classics at Oxford. From 2010-11, I taught as a lectrice at Paris Sorbonne (Paris IV). I am a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

My research focuses on early modern French literature and culture, especially of the seventeenth century, with an interest in classical reception; translation studies; cultural 'quarrels', notably the late seventeenth-century 'Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns'; life-writing; and women's cultural practice and its reception. My first book, published with OUP in 2017, examines the reception of the life of the ancient Roman poet Ovid in 17th-century French culture. In May 2018, I embarked on a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship to work on my second book, Women Writing Antiquity: Gender and Knowledge in Early Modern France (forthcoming with OUP).

In addition to language teaching, I offer research-led modules on seventeenth-century French literary culture, co-teach introductory first-year French culture modules and contribute to the final-year cross-language module 'Green Matters in Modern Languages and Cultures'. I also teach for the MA in Translation Studies and the MA in Global Literatures and Cultures. I co-direct Exeter's Centre for Early Modern Studies and am a founding member of the new Centre for Classical Reception.

Research interests

My research focuses on early modern French literature and thought, especially of the seventeenth century: I'm interested in classical reception; translation studies; literary and cultural quarrels; book history; and women's cultural production and its reception.

My first book, The Lives of Ovid in Seventeenth-Century French Culture (OUP, 2017), is a study of the reception of the life of the exiled Roman poet, Ovid. It combines literary classical reception studies with a socio-literary and historicist methodology to analyse a diverse range of authors and genres, focusing on the uses of Ovid’s life in a period marked by structural changes to the literary field, a democratising of knowledge, and the feminising of taste. It has been reviewed in Modern Philology, French Studies, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, MLR, Classical Review, and H-France Review, and was described as 'a true academic feat' (MLR).  

Women Writers and Classical Reception

I am now developing two research projects: the first, Women Writing Antiquity: Gender and Knowledge in Early Modern France (forthcoming with OUP), is a book analysing how female authors of seventeenth-century France used reception of classical texts to fashion their authorial identities, studying what such uses reveal about the gendering of knowledge. My corpus includes translators, novelists, poets, playwrights and essayists: Marie de Gournay, Madeleine de Scudéry, Antoinette Deshoulières, Madame de Villedieu, Marie-Jeanne l'Héritier and Anne Dacier, amongst others. In May 2018, I embarked on a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship to pursue this research project. Related to this main project, with Fiona Cox (Exeter), I am also co-editing a comparative, cross-period volume, Ovid in French: Reception by Women from the Renaissance to the Present, for OUP's Classical Presences Series (2022). In June 2021, with Emily Hauser (Classics, Exeter), I organised an interdisciplinary conference, 'Women Creating Classics', bringing together contemporary creative writers and academics working on women's classical reception.

Women and Querelles

The second area of interest is women's engagements with the literary 'quarrels' (querelles) that shaped early modern France with a particular focus on the methodological implications of their study for our approaches to polemical writing. I organised a panel at the MLA 2019 in Chicago and a conference at Exeter in March 2019 on this theme. I have published a number of articles on this topic, and with Kate Tunstall (Oxford), I guest-edited a Special Issue of Romanic Review on 'Women and Querelles in Early Modern France' (112.3, December 2021).


Research collaborations

I am committed to interdisciplinary scholarship and collaboration: with colleagues in History and English, I co-direct Exeter's interdisciplinary Centre for Early Modern Studies; and I am also a founding member of Exeter's new Centre for Classical Reception and serve on its advisory board.

In addition to the above, I have recently been involved in a number of funded collaborative projects:

- In 2019 I was awarded funding from Exeter's European Network Fund to set up a project entitled 'Before Invisibility: Classical meets Vernacular in Early Modern Translation Studies' with Beatrijs Vanacker at KU Leuven in Belgium and  Freyja Cox Jensen and other colleagues across Humanities at Exeter. This led to two workshops in early summer 2021 and, thanks to further funding from Exeter's Institute for Cultural Enquiry, we are now organising a conference in June 2022.

- As Co-I:  GW4 Generator Award-funded project 'Rhetoric in Society' led by Paul Earlie (Bristol) (2020-21).

- As participant in Freyja Cox Jensen's (Exeter) BA Small Research Grant-funded project 'Translating the Ancient World' (2020-22).


Research students

I am not currently taking on any more PhD students but am always happy to hear from final-year undergraduates or MA students interested in writing dissertations on early modern French culture (16th-18th centuries). For more information about the Department of Modern Languages' MA in Global Literatures and Cultures, see here.

Current PhD students:

Ben Shears (2017-)