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Dr Ann Lewis

  • Overview



    Dr Lewis is Senior Lecturer in French Studies, specialising in eighteenth-century French literature and culture.  Following a BA in French and History and M.St. European Literature at New College, Oxford, she completed her PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. She was awarded her Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at QMUL, and was appointed to a lectureship at Birkbeck in 2008 where she completed her ECF.

    Nominated for the ‘Aurora Women into Leadership’ programme in 2015-16, she has held a number of Dept roles, including sub-board chair for French, programme director for various combined programmes, and she set up BA Comparative Literature & Culture in 2020.  She is programme director for BA French Studies and Graduate Diploma French Studies, and from January 2023, she is programme director for our MA Modern Languages and Comparative Literatures.

    Dr Lewis’s research has two strands, each at the intersection of French studies and other disciplines (whether text/image relations, illustration studies and adaptation on the one hand, or the representation of the figure of the prostitute at the crossover between literary analysis and cultural history on the other):   

    (1) Her first monograph Sensibility, Reading and Illustration: Spectacles and Signs in Graffigny, Marivaux and Rousseau (Legenda, 2009) provided a major new reading of the novel of sensibility, focusing on the  textual evocation of the visual image alongside the prolific illustration of three bestselling novels of the Enlightenment.  Her research on illustration has taken her in various new directions.  A number of journal articles and book chapters articles explore illustrations as interpretations of literary works by focusing on specific themes (e.g. visual depictions of the family, incest, nature, seduction, bienfaisance).  More recently, via various publications and projects, she has focused on illustrations as they function within the broader context of visual and material culture, often outside the book and independent of their text 'of origin' (for example, as ‘progresses’ within almanacs, as collectors’ items within extra-illustrated editions, and/or as art objects to be displayed in homes).                    

    Following from this, she has organised a number of workshops and conferences more broadly interrogating the cross-over between adaptation, intermediality and illustration, and opening avenues in these emerging areas, resulting in a co-edited special issue of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies: Picturing the Eighteenth-Century Novel through Time: Illustration, Intermediality and Adaptation (with Christina Ionescu, December 2016) and the first volume in the new Legenda series Transcript: Adapting the Canon: Mediation, Visualisation, Interpretation (co-edited with Silke Arnold-de Simine, Legenda, first published in 2020, now out in paperback).  Following an online workshop in April 2022, she has co-organised a major international conference at Birkbeck and the IMLR in April 2023, with the research network Illustr4tio: ‘Illustration Studies: New Approaches, New Directions’.  Each of these collections and projects is comparative, bringing together work across national and linguistic boundaries where this has traditionally not been the approach.

    (2) The second strand of Dr Lewis’s research is a book-length project on the figure of the prostitute in eighteenth-century France, started during the tenure of her Leverhulme Early Career fellowship.  This is a slow-burn project, due to the wealth of material encompassed, and the interdisciplinary approach. She co-edited a volume exploring eighteenth-century prostitution across cultures within the eighteenth-century (with Markman Ellis): Prostitution and Eighteenth-Century Culture: Sex, Commerce and Morality (Pickering and Chatto, 2012), has been invited to speak on this topic in various fora and has published a number of chapters and articles developing aspects of the topic (including ‘Classifying the Prostitute in Eighteenth-Century France’, ‘Venality, Theatricality and the Dark Side of Sociability: Le Neveu de Rameau as a Prostitution Narrative’, and, in preparation, ‘The Oldest Profession: Métier, Prostitution and the Working Woman in Mercier and Rétif de la Bretonne’). 


    • Conference April 2023: 'Illustration Studies: New Directions, New Approaches', a major international conference co-organised by Ann Lewis and Christina Ionescu with the Illustr4tio network, at Birkbeck and the IMLR, 19-21 April 2023

    • Just published in paperback: Adapting the Canon: Mediation, Visualization, Interpretation, co-edited by Ann Lewis and Silke Arnold-de Simine (Legenda, 2020)

    • Invited speaker (October 2022): 'Les gravures de Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse: décor de chambre et almanachs ’ - at 'Vivre la fiction: La littérature par ses appropriations au quotidien (XVIIIe – XXe siècles', 5-6 October 2022, MSH Paris Nord, Saint-Denis.

    • Just published:  'Extra-illustrating Rousseau's 'Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse': The Case of the Defer de Maisonneve Edition (1793-1800)' in Journal of Illustration, 8:2 (December 2021) 251-280 (


    • BA Joint Honours History and French, University of Oxford
    • M. St. in European Literature, University of Oxford
    • PhD in French Literature, Queen Mary, University of London
    • PGC-HE (with distinction), Fellow of the HEA, Advance HE (formerly HEA)

    Administrative responsibilities

    • From January 2023: Programme Director and Admissions Tutor, MA Modern Languages and Comparative Literatures
    • Programme Director and Admissions Tutor, BA French Studies and Graduate Diploma (French Studies)
    • Programme Director, BA Comparative Literature & Culture

    Professional activities

    General Editor of the MHRA New Translations and European Translations series (October 2020-ongoing), and French editor.  

    Member of the executive committee, AUPHF+ (Association of University Professors and Heads of French +) from 1 January 2023-

    Member of the managing committee of the MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Organisation) and trustee.  (From 2013-2017, I was Officer with responsibility for MHRA conferences, and co-organised two major conferences while in this role; from 2017-2021, I was Conference Fund Officer).

    External Examiner (French) at KCL (September 2020-ongoing)

    Regular peer reviewer for 'French Studies' journal (Society for French Studies)

    Co-convenor of the Illustr4tio Network: an international research group focusing on illustration studies

    Co-director, Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group, with Luisa Calè (English), Kate Retford (History of Art) and Emily Senior (English). This interdisciplinary forum brings together researchers from across a number of departments at Birkbeck to consolidate research interests in common, and to foster dialogue across disciplinary specialisations. The group's activities combine termly reading group seminars, allowing for informal discussion of work-in-progress, with a series of public lectures, workshops and international conferences. Listen to some of our recent podcasts.

    Professional memberships

    • Member of the Advisory Editorial Board of the Book Practices & Textual Itineraries series (Presses Universitaires Nancy, Éditions Universitaires de Lorraine)

    • Member, Society for French Studies

    • Member of the HEA

    • Member of the IMLR Advisory Council (2017-2020)

    • Member, IAWIS/IERTI (International Association of Word and Image Studies/Association Internationale pour l'Étude des Rapports entre Texte et Image)

    • Member, British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (BSECS)

    Honours and awards

    • Aurora: Women into Leadership scheme, Leadership Foundation (now Advance HE), November 2016
    • Haydn Mason lecture, British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, November 2012
    • Ronald Tress prize, Birkbeck, University of London, November 2012
    • Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, Leverhulme Trust, November 2009


  • Research


    Research interests

    • French literature & culture in the eighteenth century
    • Sensibility and sentimentalism in eighteenth-century culture
    • Text/image relations, book illustration, adaptation, and intermediality
    • Representation of prostitutes and prostitution in eighteenth-century France

    Research overview

    Dr Ann Lewis’s research and teaching interests are in the field of 18th-century French literature and culture and in various forms of word and image relations (especially illustrations of 18th-century French fiction).

    Her monograph Sensibility, Reading and Illustration: Spectacles and Signs in Graffigny, Marivaux and Rousseau was published by Legenda in July 2009, and she has co-edited several collections focusing on illustration, adaptation and intermediality, including: Adapting the Canon: Mediation, Visualisation, Interpretation, ed. by Ann Lewis and Silke Arnold-de Simine,  (Legenda, 2020) and Picturing the Eighteenth-Century Novel Through Time: Illustration, Intermediality and Adaptation, a guest-edited special issue of JECS (Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies), ed. by Ann Lewis and Christina Ionescu, 39:4 (December 2016).

    Her current book-length research project, started during the tenure of her Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, focuses on the representation of the figure of the prostitute in 18th-century France, adopting an interdisciplinary perspective. (She co-edited a collection of articles bringing together a variety of approaches to the topic of prostitution in different national contexts in the eighteenth century Prostitution and Eighteenth-Century Culture: Sex, Commerce and Morality, co-edited with Markman Ellis (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012.)

    Conferences and workshops organised:

    • Illustration Studies: New Approaches, New Directions, international conference, with Illustr4tio network at Birkbeck and the IMLR (April 2023)
    • Picturing the C18 Novel Through Time: Illustration, Intermediality and Adaptation, day-long workshop within the BSECS annual conference, co-organised with Christina Ionescu (St Hugh's Oxford, January 2016);
    • Have You Heard...? Navigating the Interstices Between Public and Private Knowledge, MHRA conference (at the IMLR, October 2016);
    • Adapting the Canon, MHRA/Legenda conference (at the IMLR, October 2014);
    • Visions of the 'Coming Community', co-organised with Andrew Asibong, Damian Catani, Akane Kawakami and Nathalie Wourm, (Birkbeck, 2011);
    • Venal Bodies: Prostitutes and Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century Culture, co-organised with Markman Ellis (at the IGRS, 4 April 2009).

    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I am  happy to discuss PhD/MPhil/MA proposals relating to eighteenth-century French literature and culture in all areas related to my research interests.

    I currently co-supervise two research students:

    • Kirsten Tambling 'A Wanton Kind of Chase: Watteau and Hogarth', working title (co-supervised with Dr Kate Retford, History of Art)
    • Miki Jablkowska 'The Reception and Cultural Adaptation of Voltaire in Eighteenth-Century Poland, with particular reference to the Press', working title (co-supervised with  Prof. Robin Howells).

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14




    I teach on the full range of comparative and French modules offered at BA level (available on BA French Studies, Modern Languages, and all combined and associated programmes).  I am also convenor of several modules at Levels 5 and 6 (see below):

    Imagining France (co-teacher, 30-credit, Level 4, team-taught French module).  My section: "Imagining the Outsider's View in Eighteenth-Century France": L'Ingénu (Voltaire) and Lettres d'une Péruvienne (Graffigny)];

    Masterpieces of French Literature & Culture from the Enlightenment to the Present Day (convenor and co-teacher, 30-credit, Level 5, team-taught French module). My section: 'Eighteenth-Century Masterpieces: Les Liaisons dangereuses and Le Mariage de Figaro'.

    Reading the Signs: Text and Image in French Culture (convenor, and co-teacher, 30-credit, Level 5 French module). My section: "Diderot's Encyclopédie and its Plates: Embodying Knowledge".

    Voice, Identity Gender: Women' Writing in French (co-teacher, 30 credit team-taught French module, Levels 5 and 6). My section: Histoire d'Ernestine (Riccoboni) and Ourika (Claire de Duras)

    Fictions of Enlightenment (convenor, and sole teacher, 15-credit French module, Level 6)

    Sensibility and Sociability in the Eighteenth-Century French Novel (convenor, and sole teacher, 15-credit French module, Level 6)

    Reading Text and Image in he Eighteenth Century: Diderot and the Tableau (convenor, and sole teacher, 15-credit French module, Level 6)

    Comparative culture modules:

    Reading Transnational Cultures (from 2022, convenor, and co-teacher, team-taught comparative culture module) - Level 5 [my section: "Enlightenment Perspectives: Montesquieu's Persian Letters and Voltaire's Letters Concerning the English Nation"]

    Representations of Gender, Love & Sexuality (co-teacher, team-taught comparative culture module) - Level 5/6 [my section: "Love, Desire & the Novel of Sensibility": France and Germany]


    I teach sections on a number of core and optional MA modules for the MA Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies, including:

    Interrogating the Self [my section: on three autobiographical texts by Rousseau: Les Confessions, Dialogues: Rousseau, juge de Jean-Jacques, Les Rêveries du promeneur solitaire]

    Reading Across Cultures [my section on: Richardson's Pamela and Graffigny's Lettres d'une Peruvienne],

    French Studies strand (Self, Sexuality and Identity) [my section: Rousseau's Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes and Diderot's Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville]

    Time, Memory and the Novel [my section, on Rousseau's Julie, ou La Nouvelle Heloise']; and previously, a French module 'Health and Illness' [my section: on representations of prostitution in three novels - from the c18, c19 and c20]).

    Teaching modules

    • Reading Transnational Cultures (Level 5) (ARCL022S5)
    • Studying Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies in Modern Languages (ARCL059S7)
    • Studying Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies in Modern Languages (ARCL059S7)
    • Research Skills Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies (Modern Languages) Introduction (ARCL060Z7)
    • Research Skills Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies (Modern Languages) (ARCL061Z7)
    • Research Skills Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies (Modern Languages) (ARCL061Z7)
    • Imagining the Nation (ARCL064S7)
    • Memory and History (ARCL065S7)
    • Interrogating the Self (ARCL066S7)
    • Interrogating the Self (ARCL066S7)
    • French 4 (Level 4) (ARCL106S4)
    • Fictions of Enlightenment (Level 5) (ARCL134H5)
    • Reading Text and Image in the Eighteenth-Century: Diderot and the Tableau (AREL004H6)
    • Contemporary Literature in French (Level 5) (ARLL007S5)
    • Culture and Image (ARLL009S4)
    • Culture and Image (ARLL009S4)
    • Culture and Text (ARLL010S4)
    • Culture and Text (ARLL010S4)
    • Comparative Themes in the Novel (ARLL012S5)
    • Representations of Gender, Love and Sexuality (Level 5) (LNLN024S5)
    • Masterpieces of French Literature and Culture from the Eighteenth Century to Postmodernity (Level 5) (LNLN026S5)
  • Publications




    Book Section

    Conference Item


    • Ionescu, C. and Lewis, Ann (2016) Introduction. Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 39 (4), pp. 479-487. Wiley-Blackwell. ISSN 1754-0194.