Professor Emeritus Jennifer Birkett MA, D Phil; Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques

Department of Modern Languages
Emeritus Professor of French Studies

Contact details

Ashley Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I held the Established Chair of French Studies from 1990 to 2011. My research derives from specialist bases in French Studies, but is also cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary. In general, I am interested in the relations of history, politics and narrative form - the operations of ideology in prose fiction, as they manifest themselves in particular texts. In French Studies, I work particularly on the fin de siècle, women's writing, 18th-century fiction, and modern drama; I have also written extensively on various aspects of Franco-British cultural exchanges.


  • MA (Oxon)
  • D Phil (Oxon)


I held the Established Chair of French Studies 1990-2011. My previous Chair was in French Studies at the University of Strathclyde (1988-1990). I have held the posts of Secretary and then President of AUPHF (Association of Professors and Heads of Departments of French, 1990-1995), and Deputy Convenor and Convenor of SCASS (Standing Conference of Arts and Social Sciences, 1988-99), where I was responsible for the initiative to set up All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts and Humanities (launch November 19th 1997, House of Commons). I served in the 1980s on the National Executive of the Association of University Teachers, and helped set up the first sub-committees on Equal Opportunities for AUT and AUT (Scotland).

Postgraduate supervision

I have supervised a range of theses on women's writing, drama, the French Decadence, and the Caribbean novel.

Find out more - our PhD French Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My research is known, published and reprinted in the UK, US, and Europe, and appears in major journals and publishing outlets in English Studies as well as French Studies. My interests are currently focused on the intersections of national and European identity, and European cultural contacts, in the first half of the 20th century. My literary biography of the Yorkshire writer, Francophile and Europhile, Margaret Storm Jameson was published in 2009 by Oxford University Press (interview with Jane Garvie on Woman’s Hour: podcast). I am now writing a book on Samuel Beckett for Irish Academic Press.


Book cover for Margaret Storm Jameson - A Life

Single-authored books

  • Undoing Time: The Life and Work of Samuel Beckett, Irish Academic Press, 2015
  • The Sins of the Fathers: Decadence in France and Europe 1870-1914, London: Quartet Books, 1986 (paperback 1991).
  • Samuel Beckett: 'Waiting for Godot', Houndmills: Macmillan, 1987.
  • Margaret Storm Jameson: A Life, Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2009

Joint-authored books

  • The Macmillan Guide to French Literature: Early Modern to Postmodern, with James Kearns, London: The Macmillan Press / New York: St Martin's Press, 1997.

Edited books

  • Determined Women: The Construction of the Female Subject 1900-1990, ed and intro. with Elizabeth Harvey, London: The Macmillan Press / New York: St Martin’s Press, 1991.
  • Samuel Beckett, ed and intro.  with Kate Ince, Longman Critical Reader Series, London and New York: Pearson Education, 2000.
  • 'Anglophone Modernisms and Europe', ed and intro. with Stan Smith. Special Issue of the refereed book-length annual Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies, University of Zaragoza, 2000.
  • Margaret Storm Jameson: Writing in Dialogue, ed and intro. with Chiara Briganti, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.
  • Right/Left/Right: Revolving Commitments: France and Britain 1929-1950 , ed and intro. with Stan Smith, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.

Selected essays

  • ‘Disinterested Narcissus: The Play of Politics in Decadent Form’, in Symbolism, Decadence and the Fin de Siècle, ed Patrick McGuiness, Exeter: University of Exeter Press (2000). Rpt. in Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism, Vol. 164 (NCLC-164), Gale Group.  February 2006.
  • ‘French Courtly and Popular Romance in English Translation 1660-1790’, in The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, Stewart Gillespie (ed.), Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.
  • ‘(En)countering Globalisation: Resistances in the System’, in Stan Smith (ed.), Globalisation and its Discontents, English Association (Centenary Volume), Cambridge: D S Brewer, 2006.
  • ‘The Role and Work of Storm Jameson in the Inter-War Years,’ in Women in Europe between the Wars: Politics, Culture and Society, Angela Kershaw, Angela Kimgeour (eds), Aldershot: Ashcroft, 2006.

Selected articles

  • 'French Feminists and Anglo-Irish Modernists: Cixous, Kristeva, Beckett, Joyce', Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies, Zaragoza, University of Zaragoza (1997). Rpt. on refereed website, The Modern Word..
  • ‘The Idea of France in the Writings of Storm Jameson’, Critical Survey, Vol 10, No. 3, 1998.
  •  ‘Re-imagining Nations, Rewriting Lives: The Image of France in the Autofictions of Storm Jameson and Assia Djebar’, Romance Studies, March 2005.
  • Article on French Literature. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Complete revision with substantial new material of entry on ‘French Literature’, from the Middle Ages to the present. On-line publication 2006.
  • ‘A Fictional Function: Margaret Storm Jameson and W.H. Auden’, English. 2007.
  • ‘Margaret Storm Jameson and the Spanish Civil War: The Fight for Human Values’, Special Issue of the Journal of English Studies (University of La Rioja, Logroño), JES 5-6 (2005-2008), pp. 13-30. [Issue appeared in 2010.]