Professor Diana Holmes

Professor Diana Holmes

Professor of French

+44 (0)113 343 3496

Summary: Women writers in France, late nineteenth century to the present; popular and middlebrow fiction; French cinema


I studied at the University of Sussex, then went to Paris (Paris III) to write a maîtrise on the Resistance writer Vercors, before returning to Sussex for a PhD on  'Images of women in the inter-war French novel'. Having discovered the pleasures of teaching as well as researching, I applied for academic jobs and taught first at what was then the Polytechnic, Wolverhampton, with an intermitted period part-timing at North London Poly and Ealing (later Thames Valley), before joining Keele University in 1992 as Senior Lecturer then Professor of French. I came to Leeds in September 1999, which coincided with the award of a Leverhulme Fellowship to support the writing of a monograph on Rachilde, the only woman writer of the fin-de-siècle Decadent movement (see publications). I have served on the executive committees of the major French Studies scholarly and professional associations (Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France, 1987-1991; French Studies, 199O-1995 and 2008>to the present; Association of University Professors and Heads of French, 1997-2000; 2007>11), and chaired the national Gapper Book Prize 2008-10. I have been one of the organisers of the 'Women In French' network since it was founded in 1988. In 1998 I was awarded the Chevalier dans l’ordre des palmes académiques, for services to French culture.


It was when I came to embark on a PhD that I realised to what extent ‘literature’, especially in France, was largely synonymous with ‘writing by men’. The final chapter of my thesis is devoted to Colette: my first monograph was then a study of her work, and women’s writing became my main field of research, with an emphasis on the period from late 19th century to the present, on social and cultural context, and on what women read. Interest in readership and the social impact of the novel has also meant that my definition of literature includes mass-market or popular fiction. Recent projects with colleagues at Leeds have led to the production of a major study of Popular Culture in France (Imagining the Popular, co-edited with David Looseley), and to seminars, a conference, a journal Special issue and an edited book on popular fictions (with David Platten, and our French partners the Littératures Populaires et Cultures Médiatiques association).  I am currently writing a book on the middlebrow – that is, the page-turner that deals with serious issues, the mainstream novel that attracts large readerships but rather less critical esteem.
Through teaching, I also came to a secondary research interest in cinema, and co-wrote a study of the cinema of François Truffaut (Manchester University Press, 1998).   I co-edit the French Film Directors series in which this volume appeared; the series is large and growing, with thirty volumes already published and several more in preparation. I have also written on the stardom of Brigitte Bardot in a book (co-edited with John Gaffney) on Stars and Stardom in Post-war France, on the relationship between entertainment and ideology in film, and on gender and the French New Wave.


As well as French language, I teach modules on women's writing and French cinema, and contribute to team-taught modules on short fiction, ‘Resistance and Desire’ in French culture, and to the MA in World Cinemas. I am course director for 3 modules: The Seventh Art - Cinema in France (Level 2); Gender, Sex and Cinema in France (Level 3); Ecrire et s'écrire: Women's writing in France 20th/21st centuries (Level 3). I have been external examiner for undergraduate programmes at 8 UK universities, and at postgraduate level (MA) for 6.

Research supervision

I have supervised 5 PhDs to successful completion, and 3 MAs by Research. I have been external examiner for 26 theses since 1991, 20 from UK universities; 1 UBC, Canada (2002); 1 Monash University, Australia (2007); 1 Stavanger, Denmark (2010); 3 France (1 Limoges 2007, 2 Bordeaux 2012). I am happy to supervise students who want to work on popular fiction, women writers, feminism, cinema, reader reception – all of these either within French Studies or from a  comparative perspective.



Colette  (Macmillan, 1991)
French Women Writers 1848-1994  (Athlone, Women in Context Series, 1996)         
François Truffaut (Manchester University Press, 1998) co-authored with Robert Ingram
Rachilde – Decadence Gender and the Woman Writer (Berg, 2001)
Romance and Readership in Twentieth-Century France: Love Stories (Oxford University Press, 2006).
Reclaiming the Middlebrow: Women, stories and the hierarchy of culture  in France since the Belle Époque  (Liverpool University Press – contracted)

Edited books

100 years of European Cinema: Entertaining Ideologies (Manchester University Press, 2000), with Alison Smith
A ‘Belle Epoque’? Women in French Society and Culture 1890-1914 (Berghahn, 2005), with Carrie Tarr
Stardom in Postwar France (Berghahn 2007), with John Gaffney
Women, Genre and Circumstance: essays in memory of Elizabeth Fallaize, with Margaret Atack, Diana Knight, Judith Still (Legenda, 2012)
Imagining the Popular: highbrow, lowbrow and middlebrow in contemporary French culture (Manchester University Press 2013), with David Looseley
Finding the Plot - Storytelling in popular fictions, with David Platten, Loic Artiaga, Jacques Migozzi (Cambridge Scholars publications, 2013).

Selected articles (from 2000)

- ‘Decadent Love: Rachilde and the popular romance’ in Dix-neuf - Journal of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes  no. 1, September 2003, pp.16-28.
- ‘Romancing the text: love stories in recent French women’s writing’ in 'A New Generation: Sex, Gender, and Creativity in Contemporary Women's Writing in French', ed. Gill Rye, special issue of L'Esprit Créateur (Spring 2005), pp.97-109.
 - ‘Everyday Adventures: Annie Ernaux, Colette and Popular Culture in the Feminine’ in Nottingham French Studies: Annie Ernaux: Socio-Ethnographer of Contemporary France ed. Alison S. Fell and Edward Welch, vol.48, No.2, Summer 2009, pp.15-29.
- ‘No common places: exile as loss and gain in the work of Nancy Huston and other writers from elsewhere’ in S.Jordan & M-C Barnet (eds.), Special Issue of Dalhousie French Studies on Women and Space (Fall 2011)
-  ‘To write is a transitive verb: Nancy Huston and the ethics of the novel’ in Alec Hargreaves (ed.), Special Issue of Contemporary French and Francophone Studies-Sites,  Littérature-Monde: New Wave or New Hype,  Vol. 14, Issue 1, January 2010, pp. 85-92.
-  ‘Ouvrière des lettres'. Writing as work, fiction as play: the case of Daniel Lesueur.’ In Dix-neuf - Journal of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes, 2012.

Selected book chapters (from 2000)

- ‘The Politics of Romance: popular romantic fiction at the fin-de-siècle’ in T. Unwin & K.Chadwick (eds), France: fin(s) de siècle (Mellen Press, 2000), pp.117-138.
- ‘Entertainment, but where’s the ideology? The last films of François Truffaut’ in Diana Holmes & Alison Smith, 100 years of European Cinema: Entertaining Ideologies (Manchester University Press, 2000), pp. 144-157.
- ‘Renée Vivien:  Utopia and the Sapphic Body’ in A.Kershaw, P. Moores, H.Stafford (eds.), The Impossible Space. Explorations of Utopia in French Writing (Strathclyde Modern Language Studies, 2004), pp.74-95.
- ‘Novels of adultery: Paul Bourget, Daniel Lesueur and what women read in the 1890s’ in S.Capitanio, L.Downing, P.Rowe and N.White (eds.), Currencies : Fiscal Fortunes and Cultural Capital in Nineteenth-Century France, (Peter Lang, 2005), pp.13-28.
- ‘Daniel Lesueur and the Feminist Romance’. In A ‘Belle Epoque’? (above), 197-210.
- ‘“A Girl of Today”: Brigitte Bardot’ in J.Gaffney and D.Holmes (eds.), Stars and Stardom in Post-War France (above).
- ‘Sex, gender and adaptation: the French New Wave and Hollywood’ in Paul Cooke (ed.),  Dialogues with Hollywood: World Cinema’s relationship with American Film Culture, (Palgrave 2006), pp.154-171.
- ‘The Legacy of Colette’ in Julia Waters, Rosalind Marsh, Adalgisa Giorgio (eds.), Women’s Writing in Western Europe. Gender, Generation and Legacy (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007; further edition in e-book format), pp.38-53.
- ‘Ecrire est un verbe transitif: les voix narratives de Nancy Huston’ in Audrey Lasserre et Anne Simon (eds) : Nomadismes des romancières contemporaines de langue française (Presses Sorbonne nouvelle, 2008), pp.83-92.
- Le ‘je’ féministe et le temps qui passe: Colette, Agnès Varda, Nancy Huston’  in Les féministes de la deuxième vague, ed. Christine Bard. Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012, pp.211-218.
- ‘La masculinité dans les romans de Daniel Lesueur’ in F. Grenaudier-Klijn et al, Écrire les hommes.Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 2012. pp. 93-211.
- ‘Dealing with what is dealt: feminists and ageing’ in Margaret Atack, Diana Holmes,
Diana Knight and Judith Still (eds.), Women, Genre and Circumstance: essays in memory of Elizabeth Fallaize  (Legenda 2012) 
- ‘The Mimetic Prejudice: Popular fiction in France’ in Diana Holmes and David Looseley (eds.) Imagining the Popular: highbrow, lowbrow and middlebrow in contemporary French culture (Manchester University Press, 2012).
-  ‘What women read. Contemporary women’s writing and the bestseller’ in Women's Writing in Twenty-First-Century France: Life as Literature, ed. Gill Rye and Amaleena Damlé. University of Wales Press, 2013.