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Professor Katherine Astbury

Dr Katherine AstburyProfessor of French Studies

Email: Katherine dot Astbury at warwick dot ac dot uk
Room FAB4.06
Internal phone number: 23333
Faculty of Arts Building
University Road
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL

Research interests

My research focuses on extending our understanding of French culture 1750-1815 by examining the traditions, themes, aesthetics and politics of novels, prints, theatrical texts, scores and performances of the time. The ways in which cultural forms inflect the public sphere and shape political legitimacy are central to my work and can be seen in both my 2012 monograph Narrative Responses to the Trauma of the French Revolution and the 2018 co-edited volume with Mark Philp Napoleon’s One Hundred Days and the Politics of Legitimacy (Palgrave).

I am currently preparing a monograph on theatre during Napoleon's One Hundred Days which is the culmination of an AHRC-funded project on French Theatre of the Napoleonic Era which I ran between 2013 and 2017. This project involved a team of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers working on linking close textual readings to larger cultural, social and political issues. In 2016-17 I had AHRC follow-on funding for a project on Staging Napoleonic Theatre which involved working with the Georgian Theatre Royal Richmond, North Yorkshire to put on a performance of Pixerécourt's La Forteresse du Danube and with English Heritage at Portchester Castle to stage a melodrama the Napoleonic prisoners wrote while incarcerated there: Roseliska ou amour, haine et vengeance. The dress rehearsal was filmed and can be seen here and the performance has been shortlisted in the Events category of the 2019 Association of Heritage Interpretation awards.

I have worked closely with English Heritage at Portchester castle for a number of years now, advising on the reinterpretation of the keep, particularly the prisoner-of-war theatre that was there 1810-1814, and leading schools workshops on the prisoners' acting styles. From July 2019-November 2019 the castle has housed a sound installation I commissioned: | Les Murs Sont Témoins | These Walls Bear Witness | was created by internationally renowned artist Elaine Mitchener to bring to life the experiences of the 2000 black revolutionaries from the Caribbean held at Portchester in 1797 and those from mainland France held there during the Napoleonic wars. I was awarded a University public engagement award in 2019 for my work at Portchester Castle.

In 2020 and 2021 I worked with English Heritage and the National Youth Theatre on a new project called Freedom and Revolution which used my research team's archival work to explore Black history in the Caribbean and at Portchester Castle through the focus of the women and children brought to the UK as prisoners of war in 1797. Lakesha Arie-Angelo wrote a new play called the Ancestors using as inspiration the stories of these prisoners, with a nod towards a prisoner of war play from 1807, the Revolutionary Philanthropist which looked at the Revolution on Haiti. A production of The Ancestors was filmed on site at Portchester Castle in August 2021 and should be screened in spring 2022. Educational packs with English Heritage and the National Youth Theatre are available to teachers.

In September 2021, I hosted a visit of a delegation of Garifuna people who came to Portchester Castle to honour the revolutionaries from St Vincent held at the castle in 1797. I shall be developing educational materials with them to help disseminate the history of these revolutionaries.


Recently I have been disseminating my research primarily through publicly accessible formats rather than traditional articles. So for instance, you can read about the prison-of-war theatre at Portchester in an article my former PhD student Devon Cox and I gave at a twitter conference on War through other stuff here. You can listen to a documentary about the similarities and differences between English and French melodrama here. To mark the bicentenary of Napoleon's return to power in 1815, I co-curated an online exhibition: The Last Stand: Napoleon's One Hundred Days in One Hundred Objects and wrote 16 articles for it.

In 2012 I published a monograph on 'non-political' fiction of the 1790s as a response to the trauma of the Revolution (Narrative Responses to the trauma of the French Revolution (Oxford, Legenda, 2012)). The work for this was funded by a British Academy Small Grant and an AHRC matching leave grant. The research has shown how the apparent continuity of Ancien Régime tropes, settings and characters is in fact an indication of writers' traumatised response to the Revolution. Significantly, it is the writers who experience emigration and who would go on to be the avant-garde of the Romantic movement in France who succeed in working through their responses to the Revolution, while lesser writers remain trapped in the repetitive cycle of reliving the trauma without fully acknowledging the memories.

My first book on The Moral Tale in France and Germany 1750-1789, examining the development of short fiction in the two countries in the years leading up to the French Revolution, was published by the Voltaire Foundation as SVEC 2002:7. Much of my work is centred on questions of literary history and the thorny problem of literary influence.

I have published on many of the principal figures of the 18th century and their relationship to short fiction. This includes Prévost, Beaumarchais, Marmontel, Baculard d'Arnaud and Sade. I have edited 'Memnon ou la sagesse humaine' for the Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire. In 2003-04 I had a grant from the British Academy to look at fiction and the literary press during the Revolution. A number of articles based on this research are now in print.

I also have an interest in women writers of the late eighteenth century, working on the SIEFAR Grand dictionnaire des femmes de l'ancienne France and in collaboration with Suzan van Dijk on an international project on the reception of women writers funded by the NWO (the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research). I am also part of the AHRC-funded team working on the correspondence of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, collaborating with Catriona Seth (Nancy) on the letters of Bernardin's sister, Catherine-Dorothée.

In December 2008 I organised an international conference on Le Tournant des Lumières at the Institut français in London. Two volumes of papers have been published : Bernardin de Saint-Pierre au tournant des Lumières (Leuven, Peeters, 2012) and Le Tournant des Lumières, ed. by Katherine Astbury and Catriona Seth (Paris, Garnier, 2012).

In 2014 I was awarded the Arts Faculty prize for Public engagement for my work on Revolutionary prints in schools.

Teaching and supervision

My teaching interests lie in the literature and culture of the 18th and 19th centuries and in translation. In particular I run modules on 18th- and 19th-century drama, the French Revolution and First Empire, bestsellers of the 19th century, the literature of the 18th century. I was awarded a Warwick Teaching Excellence Award in 2007 and used the prize money as well as an award from the University's Education Innovation Fund to explore how students can be involved in the process of preserving the Library's Special Marandet Collection of 18th- and 19th century plays. The results of the project can be seen here.

I am happy to supervise theses on the second half of the 18th century and early 19th century. Current and recent projects are listed below:

  • Spectacle in the prints of the French Revolution (AHRC collaborative doctoral award, successfully completed 2012)
    Waddesdon Manor

Claire Trévien with me at Waddesdon Manor where much of the research for her thesis took place

  • The novels of French noblewomen émigrées in London in the 1790s. Memory, Trauma and Female voice in the émigré novel (AHRC doctoral award, successfully completed 2016).Laure Philip with supervisorLaure in Australia
Laure Philip with me after her graduation ceremony and starting her Postdoc in Australia.
  • Clare Siviter, Rewriting History Through the Performance of Tragedy 1799–1815 (AHRC doctoral scholarship on the French Theatre of the Napoleonic Era project). Successfully completed 2016.Siviter thesis
  • Elisabeth Wallmann, Insects and the Enlightenment (successfully completed autumn 2017)

Elisabeth Wallmann and Kate Astbury

Here I am with Elisabeth Wallmann at her graduation

  • Devon Cox, French prisoners of war and their theatricals (successfully completed January 2018)

Devon Cox and Kate Astbury

With Devon Cox after the graduation ceremony

  • Abigail Coppins (started October 2020) women and children prisoners of war from the Caribbean at Portchester and Forton 1796-97.

Administrative roles

  • Head of School (September 2019- )
  • Academic Director of undergraduate admissions, recruitment and outreach, School of Modern Languages and Cultures (September 2015-2017)
  • Director of Impact (Jan 2015-September 2016)
  • French senior tutor (Jan-April 2017)

Selected publications


  • ‘Napoléon Arlequin ou la métaphore théâtrale’, in Les masques de l’empereur, special issue of the Revue italienne d’études françaises 11 (2021)
  • ‘Excavating French melodrama of the First Empire’ (co-written with Sarah Burdett and Diane Tisdall), Sound, Stage, Screen, 1.1 (April 2021), pp. 7-46.
  • 'Whole shew and spectacle’: French Prisoner-of-War theatre in England during the Napoleonic era. Journal of War and Culture Studies, 14 (2). pp. 194-210. doi:10.1080/17526272.2021.1887577
  • ‘Postrevolutionary novels’ in Cambridge History of the Novel in French, ed. by Adam Watt (2021), pp. 257-274. ISBN: 9781108497077


  • ‘Engaging students in research: Stop motion videos, strip cartoons and the Waddesdon Manor collection of prints’, Teaching Representations of the French Revolution, ed. Julia Douthwaite. Antoinette Sol and Catriona Seth (MLA, 2020)
  • ‘Sonorising « La Forteresse du Danube » : Functions of music in Parisian and provincial melodrama of the early nineteenth century’ (co-written with Diane Tisdall), Studi francesi, 191 (autumn 2020), 248-360.


  • ‘Répertoires traditionnels et répertoire nouveau à Paris sous les Cent-Jours’, in Fièvre et vie du théâtre sous la Révolution française et l’Empire, ed. by Thibaut Julian and Vincenzo De Santis (Paris, Garnier, 2019), pp. 195-210
  • ‘Réécrire une histoire du théâtre en province : Les Mémoires et confessions d’un comédien de Jean-Edme Paccard’, in Fièvre et vie du théâtre sous la Révolution française et l’Empire, ed. by Thibaut Julian and Vincenzo De Santis (Paris, Garnier, 2019), pp. 293-310


  • Introduction (with Mark Philp) Napoleon's Hundred Days and the Politics of Legitimacy, ed. by Katherine Astbury and Mark Philp (Palgrave, 2018)
  • Critical edition (with Catriona Seth) of the complete correspondence of Catherine-Dorothée de Saint-Pierre, Electronic Enlightenment, 



  • Critical edition of Pixerécourt’s La Forteresse du Danube in Pixerécourt Mélodrames III (1804-1808), under the direction of Roxane Martin (Paris: Garnier, 2016), pp. 263-411.
  • ‘Les réseaux de Catherine de Saint-Pierre’ (co-written with Catriona Seth), in Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. Idées, réseaux, réception, ed. by Sonia Anton, Laurence Macé, Gabriel-Robert Thibault, PU de Rouen et du Havre, 2016, pp. 95-115. ISBN : 9791024006079.



‘Les politiques du grand spectacle : les mélodrames de Pixerécourt avant 1807’, European Drama and Performance Studies 1 (2013)


  • Narrative Responses to the Trauma of the French Revolution (Oxford, Legenda, 2012), 185 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1907975424
  • Bernardin de Saint-Pierre au tournant des Lumières Mélanges en l'honneur de Professor Malcolm Cook (Leuven, Peeters, 2012), 168 pp. ISBN-13: 978-9042925755
  • Le Tournant des Lumières, ed. by Katherine Astbury and Catriona Seth (Paris, Garnier, 2012), 298 pp. ISBN 978-2-8124-0508-2


  • 'The Trans-National Dimensions of the Émigré Novel during the French Revolution’, Eighteenth-Century Fiction 23.4 (Summer 2011), pp. 801-832
  • ‘Music in Pixerécourt’s early melodramas’, in Melodramatic Voices: Understanding Music Drama, ed. by Sarah Hibberd (Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera) (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2011), pp. 15-26, 978-1-4094-0082-0
  • ‘La Révolution au féminin: Les lettres de Catherine de Saint-Pierre à l’époque révolutionnaire’, in Autour de Bernardin de Saint-Pierre : Les écrits et les hommes des Lumières à l’Empire, ed. by Catriona Seth and Eric Wauters (Rouen, Presses de l’université de Rouen et l’université du Havre, 2011), pp. 91-99, 978-2-87775-504-7


  • ‘Du gothique anglais au gothique français : le roman noir et la Révolution française’, in Imaginaires gothiques : aux sources du roman noir français, ed. by Catriona Seth (Paris : Desjonquères, 2010), pp.131-45, 978-2-84321-124-9


  • ‘Madame Riccoboni et Le Monde de Jean-François Bastide’, Nottingham French Studies 48(3) Autumn 2009. Special issue : Enlightenment and Narrative : Essays in honour of Richard A. Francis by colleagues and friends, ed. by Philip Robinson, pp. 85-92.


  • ‘Charlotte Smith’s The Banished Man in French Translation; or The Politics of Novel Writing during the Revolution’, Charlotte Smith in British Romanticism, ed. by Jacqueline Labbe (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2008), pp. 129-43.
  • ‘The Success of Marmontel’s moral tales on the French stage 1760-1770’, in Voltaire and the 1760s. Essays for John Renwick, ed. by Nicholas Cronk (Oxford, SVEC 2008:10), pp. 55-64


  • 'Les philosophes et la Révolution française dans les contes moraux de Marmontel', in Le philosophe romanesque: L'image du philosophe dans le roman des Lumières, ed by Florence Lotterie and Pierre Hartmann (Travaux du Centre d'études des Lumières de l'Université de Strasbourg – n° 13)
  • Claire du Plessis d’Auguste Lafontaine ou Histoire d’un roman d’émigration allemand’, in Destins romanesques de l’émigration, ed. by Claire Jaquier, Florence Lotterie et Catriona Seth (Paris : Desjonquères, 2007), pp. 53-66.
  • 'The Respectable M. De Sade, literary critic', A Different Sade: Food for Thought Thursday, 7 June 2007 A British Academy discussion evening Editor: Marian Hobson. Available on line at
  • ‘Les éducatrices françaises à Londres pendant la Révolution’, in Femmes éducatrices au Siècle des Lumières, ed. by Isabelle Brouard-Arends and Marie-Emmanuelle Plagnol-Diéval (Rennes : Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2007), pp. 347-356.


  • ‘Une chaumière et un cœur simple. Pastoral fiction and the art of persuasion 1790-92’ in Revolutionary Culture: Continuity and Change, ed. by Mark Darlow, Nottingham French Studies 45 (1), special issue Spring 2006, pp. 5-19.
  • 'Masculinity and Medievalism in the Tales of Baculard d'Arnaud', Medievalism and manière gothique in Enlightenment France,  ed. by Peter Damian-Grint, SVEC 2006:05, 37- 51.


  • ‘Marmontel and Baculard’s immoral tales’, in Enlightenment Uncertainties: moral, pedagogical and scientific debates of eighteenth-century France, ed. by Jean Bloch (SVEC 2005:01), pp. 39-51.


  • Voltaire, Memnon ou la sagesse humaine, Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, 30B (Voltaire Foundation, 2004), pp. 235-74
  • Katherine Astbury / Marie-Emmanuelle Plagnol-Diéval (eds), Le mâle en France 1715-1830: représentations de la masculinité (Bern: Lang, 2004), 317pp., 1 ill., ISBN 3-03910-177-3


  • 'Marmontel, éditeur du Mercure de France, et ses contes moraux', in Marmontel: une rhétorique de l’apaisement, ed. by Jacques Wagner, Peeters, 2003, pp. 165-74.


  • The Moral Tale in France and Germany 1750-1789 (SVEC 2002:07), ISBN 0 7294 0789 6
  • ‘The Marquis de Sade and the Sentimental Tale: Les Crimes de l’amour as a subversion of sensibility’, Australian Journal of French Studies, 39 (2002), pp. 47-59
  • 'Le Conte moral allemand en France: réécriture et réinterprétation de la morale', in Réécritures 1700-1820, ed. by Malcolm Cook and Marie-Emmanuelle Plagnol-Diéval, Peter Lang, 2002, pp. 197-208, ISBN 3-906768-28-7
  • 'La femme amoureuse et le conte moral des femmes écrivains: vers un conte moral 'féminin'?', in Féminités et masculinités dans le texte narratif avant 1800. La Question du 'gender'. Actes du XIVe Colloque de la SATOR (Amsterdam / Leyde 2000), ed. by Suzan van Dijk and Madeleine van Strien-Chardonneau, Peeters, 2002, pp. 349-61, ISBN 90-429-1111-5


BA, PhD (Exeter)

Office Hours

Times by appointment - or drop by and see if I'm in!

Cover of Narrative Responses book

Cover of The Moral Tale in France and Germany 1750-1789