Diane M. Michael

Diane M. Michael

Department of Modern Languages
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Phd title: “Concrétisations cinématographiques de l’identité française : Défenses symptomatiques”/“Cinematic Concretisations of French Identity: Symptomatic Defences”
SupervisorDr Andrew Watts and Dr Kate Ince
PhD Modern Languages


  • MA French – Civilisation and culture (Middlebury College)
  • MA French education (Eastern Washington University)
  • MS Educational technologies (Western Oregon University)
  • BA French (Eastern Washington University)
  • BA Psychology (Eastern Washington University)


Diane M. Michael is a researcher desirous of joining a French laboratoire de recherche exploring nexus of World War 2 lived experience in France and multi-perspective identity represented in French Occupation cinema.


  • 2017-2018, Class tutor, University of Birmingham: Translation, Comprehension & Civilisation for Francophone Erasmus-Socrates Exchange Students


An imprecise vision of “self” and “other” in founding French ideology has left the national debate on French identity without a defining image and, hence, at risk during national crises such as les années noires under Nazi Occupation. As an audio-visual treatment of the “self”-“other” relations that define mental image, French cinema about this period offers a visible voice for participation in the national debate.

“Cinematic Concretisations of French Identity: Symptomatic Defences” analyses ten French films about les années noires through lens of Jean Epstein’s and André Bazin’s ontological film theories. L’Assassinat du père Noël/Who killed Santa Claus ? (Christian-Jacque, 1941), Les Inconnus dans la maison/Strangers in the house (Decoin, 1942), Le Corbeau (Clouzot, 1943), and Les Caves du Majestic/Majestic Hotel cellars (Pottier, 1945) ; Le Silence de la mer (Melville, 1949) and L’Armée du crime/Army of crime (Guédiguian, 2009) ; L’Œil de Vichy/The Eye of Vichy (Chabrol, 1993) and Pétain (Marbœuf, 1993) ; Lacombe Lucien (Malle, 1974) andt Les Hommes libres/Free men (Ferroukhi, 2011) comprise the corpus of films. Distributed across four chapters, the film analyses explore variations in identity formation: self and other ; we and you ; he and they ; and multiple identity.

Using defence mechanisms as the operational variable to identify principal “self” and “other” in each film, the study examines the concretised identity that conflict resolution semi-coalesces. Essential questions of the study are 1) What categories of “other” threaten the principal “self”? 2) What composite image of French identity is concretised? 3) How does the concretised “self”-“other” clarify the French mental image?

Equally relevant to identity threats on a broader scale, the study also offers application in the contemporary era as European nations are challenged to incorporate the “other” of massive demographic shifts.

Other activities

  • Member of the Society for French Studies

Conference papers

  • B-Film 2019 Symposium paper: “The Microcosmic Universe of World Cinema”