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Dr Susannah Wilson

Assistant Professor in French Studies

s wilsonEmail: S dot M dot Wilson at warwick dot ac dot uk

Office: room 4.25

Humanities Building, University Road
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL

Research interests

My research interests are framed by an interdisciplinary approach, and concern the areas of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French culture and literature, with specialist interest in representations of mental health and illness; gender and criminality; psychoanalytical theory; the history of the French psychological sciences; social history; and ‘self-writing’ (autobiography, memoir writing, and correspondence). I focus in particular on the period and idea of the fin-de-siècle.

My latest book, Voices from the Asylum: Four French Women Writers, 1850-1920 (Oxford University Press, 2010) investigates the lives of a number of women writers incarcerated in French psychiatric hospitals during this period who left first-hand accounts of their experiences. These rare and unsettling documents provide the foundation for a unique insight into the experience of psychiatric breakdown and treatment from the patient's viewpoint. The book argues that the construction of partially delusional narratives by these patients constituted a compelling act of resistance against a deeply unequal society, and that their accounts prefigure the feminist revisionist histories of psychiatry that appeared later in the twentieth century.

I was awarded a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in 2011 to pursue a new project entitled Inscribed on the Body: Women, Intoxication and Self-Destruction in Nineteenth-Century France. Focusing on physically self-destructive behaviours, such as self-mutilation, anorexia/ bulimia, substance use and abuse, excessive intoxication, and ritual body modification (e.g. stigmata), this project seeks to gain greater understanding of how and why nineteenth-century French women modified, manipulated and harmed their bodies. Since the earlier stages of research it has developed into three autonomous strands of enquiry, with separate planned outputs: First, an article considering the significance of the female nude in fin-de-siècle visual culture when analysing clinical photographs of anorexic women; second, a book project on a case of murder committed by a morphine-dependent woman in France in the 1880s, which will frame a broader cultural history of morphine in late nineteenth-century France; third, a paper on gender and genius in the letters of the sculptor Camille Claudel. I have been invited to present numerous papers on these research findings at conferences and seminars in Warwick, Oxford, London, Paris and other UK universities.

In March 2015 I was awarded a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award to fund and facilitate a series of events on the subject of 'Addiction and Culture since 1800'. Our first event was a workshop on Friday 26 June 2015, and the poster can be found here: Addiction and Culture (PDF Document)

Our next event is an interdisciplinary workshop on the theme of Prohibition, with further details here:

Prohibition: Humanities Perspectives

I have recently secured further funding from the AHRC 10th Anniversary Cultural Engagement Fund to run a series of public engagement events linked to this project.

I welcome enquiries from potential MA and PhD students looking to work in my area of research specialism.

I also have three years of experience teaching (secondary) in the state and private sector.

Teaching and supervision

Administrative roles

  • Senior Tutor
  • History of Art and French Department Representative



Voices from the Asylum: Four French Women Writers, 1850-1920 (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Articles and chapters:
  • 'Gender, Genius and the Artist’s Double Bind: the Letters of Camille Claudel, 1886-1910’, Modern Language Review, 112: 2 (accepted for publication, forthcoming April 2017).
  • 'Emaciation as a Subversive Strategy in the Goncourts' Renée Mauperin and an Early Case of Hysterical Anorexia’, in Sophie Leroy (ed.), Medicine and Maladies (Leiden: Brill, 2017).
  • 'Anorexia and its Metaphors', Exchanges, 2016, 3 (2), pp. 216-226.
  • 'The Iconography of Anorexia Nervosa in the Long Nineteenth Century', in Kate Scarth, Francesca Scott and Ji Won Chung (eds), Picturing Women's Health (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2014).
  • ‘Writing from the asylum: a re-assessment of the voices of female patients in the history of psychiatry in France’, in Being Human: Reflections on Mental Distress in Society, ed. by Alastair Morgan (Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, 2009), pp. 99-109.

I also regularly write reviews for French Studies, Nineteenth-Century French Studies, the Modern Language Review and Gender and History, and Modern and Contemporary France.

Forthcoming publications:
  • Prohibition: Cultural and Historical Perspectives (edited book, forthcoming with Routledge, 2018/19).


  • I provided new translations from the French for a Penguin Classics edition of Charles Darwin's Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (2005), ed. by Dr Michael Neve and Dr Sharon Messenger of the Wellcome Trust Centre for History of Medicine, UCL.


BA, MA (Manchester), Licence ès Lettres Modernes (Bourgogne), D.Phil (Oxford)

Office Hours


Tuesday 11am-1pm

Wednesday 9-10am

Other times available by appointment.

Tel. 02476 151365 (internal x. 51365)