Comparative Literature


Jennifer Rushworth

I am a lecturer in modern French with consistently comparative and cross-period research interests, particularly relating to medieval Italian poetry. I work on mourning, medievalism, and musico-literary relations, often from a theoretical and/or psychoanalytical perspective.


My first book is on Discourses of Mourning in Dante, Petrarch, and Proust (OUP, 2016). It uses a psychoanalytical and theoretical framework, particularly drawing on the work of Freud, Kristeva, Derrida, and Barthes, in order to bring together different narratives about loss. I am especially interested in questions of how to write adequately about the experience of grief and the role of intertextuality (most obviously, the Orpheus myth) in this process.


My second book is Petrarch and the Literary Culture of Nineteenth-Century France: Translation, Appropriation, Transformation (Boydell, 2017). It asks a controversial question—was Petrarch French?—and considers ways in which nineteenth-century French readers and translators often sought to adopt Petrarch as French through his connections to Avignon and Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. This book is broadly situated within translation studies and reception studies, and responds to the transnational turn.

My current work includes a project tentatively titled ‘Barthes’s Middle Ages: Mourning and Medievalism’, drawing together the previously disparate research focuses of my first two books. In this project I am exploring Barthes’s reading of Dante, especially as mediated by other figures: on the one hand, Michelet and therefore Vico; on the other hand, Sollers and Tel Quel. More broadly, I am also considering the evidence for a ‘medieval Barthes’, incorporating both Barthes’s own engagement with the Middle Ages and the use of Barthes for and by medievalists. A number of intertwined threads relating to a play on the idea of the ‘middle’ (mezzo, milieu, etc.) run throughout the project: medieval, middleness, middlingness, medium, mediation, remediation, intermediateness…


I have long been fascinated by the descriptions of music in Proust’s long novel A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). In 2016–17 I have been running a creative interdisciplinary project involving translation of passages from Proust into English and new compositions for violin and piano inspired by these passages. You can read more about this project here: https://proustandmusic.wordpress.com/

When my German is better I have on the horizon a project on ‘The Imaginary Composer: A Literary Genealogy’, which would place Proust in a broader lineage including Hoffmann, Balzac, Mann, and others.