My research focuses on modern and contemporary British and French literature, with particular interests in feminism, aesthetics and visual culture, urban studies, philosophy, and critical & creative writing. I am equally committed to scholarship and to writing for a wider audience, and to finding ways in which the work we do both inside and outside the academy can engage with the culture at large.
I have most recently published a non-fiction book called Flâneuse: Women Walk the City (Chatto & Windus/FSG). A hybrid work of critical-creative writing, Flâneuse blends biography, memoir, literary criticism, and cultural studies, keeping one eye trained on the question of the politics of urban space. It has often been suggested by feminist critics that there could be no flâneuse, because women have not traditionally had the freedom to walk the streets that men have. Yet there have always been women in cities, and there is a long, largely invisible tradition of women engaging with them. Why not, in that case, redefine the concept of the woman in the street to show that she is not merely a female flâneur, wandering idly through the metropolis, but an important figure in her own right in the landscape of modernity? In chapters on Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, Sophie Calle, Agnès Varda, Martha Gellhorn, and George Sand, I argue that the flâneuse is a subversive figure, led on by curiosity and bent on going where she’s not supposed to; the various chapters explore different ways to be a flâneuse, including stalking, reporting, street haunting, and political marching. Through an engagement with the work of Homi Bhabha, the book becomes a critique of the idea of belonging, and national, even elective, affiliation.