Philippa Read

Philippa Read

Research Postgraduate Student
Postgraduate Tutor

Summary: White Rose Studentship holder on "Classical Influences on European Discourses of Heroism in the War Effort and Peace Movement 1914-24" network.

Teaching Commitments: At undergraduate level, I teach on 'Language Awareness and Skills', 'Introduction to French Studies' (Level 1) 'Aspects of French History' and 'French Culture and the First World War' (Level 3).

My Research

My PhD is entitled 'Female Heroism in First World War France: Representations and Lived Experiences’.

The project compares representative messages about female heroism in wartime, with the lived experience of women in heroic roles. It questions the impact of the First World War on the development or adaptation of concepts and ideals of female heroism in France. 

This is achieved firstly via an investigation of dominant cultural discourses of female heroism before and during the First World War. Secondly, using memoir and autobiography, the thesis presents the case studies of individual French women who took on heroic roles in wartime.


Professor Alison Fell (Leeds) and Professor Angela Hobbs (Sheffield)

About Me 

I studied as an undergraduate in French at the University of Leeds, and was awarded a Class I with distinction in the use of spoken French. I have returned to Leeds twice since, as a Master of Arts by Research in 2010, and more recently to begin my PhD in October 2013. I have been based in the French department for the whole of my postgraduate career.

My interest in First World War and gender history was honed during my year abroad, which I spent in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais as a teaching assistant in a French school. In my final year I chose a First World War history module led by my current supervisor, and was particularly interested in the work we did on gender. 

My Masters thesis, entitled "Unspeakable Acts: Cultural Representations of the enfant de l'ennemi debate in France", looked at the public debate which addressed the issue of pregnancy and offspring resulting from sexual violence perpetrated by German soldiers in the invasion of Belgium and France. I examined the ways in which the debate was echoed in five novels published during the war and in the interwar period. 


'Antigone 'Resurrected': The Appropriation of Sophocles' Heroine in Interwar France', The Journal of War and Culture Studies (peer-reviewed, forthcoming)


I am a member of the University's Centenary Project, Legacies of War, which organises a series of events across Leeds to commemorate and explore different histories of the War, examining its multiple cultural, historical and social legacies. This has included work with local museums, schools and community groups, and archives. My role is co-convener of the project's academic seminar series, which invites speakers to give papers on topics relating to the war.

I am a member of the International Society for First World War Studies online team.

I am chair of the 'First World War Network' which organised an AHRC-funded, two day international conference in February 2016 at the Imperial War Museum North. 

Conference Papers 

'Unspeakable Acts: Cultural Representations of the enfant de l’ennemi debate in France', International Women's Day Conference, Queens University Belfast, March 2014

'Jane Harrison', Postgraduate Colloquium at 'Classics and Classicists in WWI', University of Leeds, April 2014

'“A Tall Man with Very Light Eyes…”: Female Trauma Responses in Annie Vivanti Chartres’ The Outrage', at The ‘Girl-the Woman: Generational Borders Symposium’, Queens University Belfast, May 2014

'Rape in First World War France and Belgium: Nuanced Perspectives', at ‘The Violence of War: Experiences and Images of Conflict’, University College London, June 2014 

'The enfant de l'ennemi debate in First World War France', 'The Academic World in the Era of the Great War', Trinity College Dublin, August 2014 

'“She must hold the center of the stage and the reins of power” : Classical Female Models in Les Vaillaintes by Léon Abensour and The Living Present by Gertrude Atherton', at Women's History Network Annual Conference 'Home Fronts: Gender War and Conflict', University of Worcester, September 2014 

'Problematic Ideals: Female Heroism in First World War France',  'Intellectuals and the Great War', University of Ghent, December 2014

'The Political Reorientation of Female Heroism in First World War France',  Legacies of War Seminar, University of Leeds, March 2015

'Les anciens modèles héroïques 'ressuscités' pendant la Première Guerre mondiale: Le cas d'Antigone', Public conference for International Women's Day, Saint-Amand-Les-Eaux Médiathèque, France, March 2015.

'Dominant Female Role Models in France: Jeanne d’Arc from the Belle-Epoque to the First World War', 'Women and the First World War', Newcastle University, September 2015

'“Guardians of morality”: Traditional discourses of female heroism in First World War France', 'Heroes', Royal Geographical Society, October 2015

‘In Defence of Life: Marcelle Capy’s Resistance to War', 'Resistance to War 1914-1924', University of Leeds, March 2016


In 2016 I have been awarded a Dissertation Scholarship from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Austin, Texas and a postgraduate bursary from AHRC First World War Engagement Centre, 'Gateways to the First World War'.