Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Dr Susannah Wilson

Reader in French Studies

Head of French Studies

Email: S dot M dot Wilson at warwick dot ac dot uk

Office: FAB 4.43

Faculty of Arts Building, University Road, University of Warwick

Coventry, CV4 7AL

Research interests

My research interests are framed by an interdisciplinary approach and focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century French culture and literature, with a special interest in medical cultures of the modern period; women's lives and writing; sex, gender, pathology and criminality; the history of the French psychological sciences; cultural history; and all forms of self-writing. I focus in particular on the period and idea of the fin-de-siècle but I am also very interested in the early twentieth century.

My first book, Voices from the Asylum: Four French Women Writers, 1850-1920 (Oxford University Press, 2010) investigated the lives and writings of a number of women incarcerated in French psychiatric hospitals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

In 2018 I was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to write a cultural history of morphine in France from c. 1870-1940. I am currently preparing two monographs for publication arising from this project: the first on the cultural history of drugs in France, and the second will be a microhistory of an obscure murder case that briefly caused sensation in 1880s Dijon (see publications below).

I am also interested in oral history and the recording of women's lives, and I have written for non-academic audiences on this subject. My most recent book, Now We Are Forty (2023), traces the lives of a small group of British women born in the 1970s who reached middle age in the late 2010s. It is available in paperback and on Kindle and has had some good endorsements so far:

In Wilson’s careful hands, via her deft and unobtrusive narrative, the stories of women in their forties, who have in common only a shared secondary school and age, come to life. What they reveal tells us much about how sex and socio-economic class shape life for women in Britain in the 2020s, making this book a significant social document for our times.’ – Lisa Downing, author of Selfish Women.

The idea for my book on morphine addiction in France grew out of a previous research project, a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship which I held from 2011-2014 and which focused on self-destructive behaviours in women's writing. I have been invited to present papers and presentations on these research findings at conferences and seminars in Warwick, Oxford, London, Paris, Mexico City and elsewhere.

In March 2015 I was awarded a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award to fund and facilitate a series of events on the subject of 'Cultures of Addiction since 1800'. This research network has resulted in the publication of a sole-edited book, Prohibitions and Psychoactive Substances in History, Culture and TheoryLink opens in a new window, published with Routledge in 2019.

I welcome enquiries from potential MA and PhD students looking to work in my area of research specialism.

I also have three years of secondary-school teaching experience in the state and private sector.

Teaching and supervision (2022-23)

  • FR2012 French translation
  • LN401 Independent Research Project on French women's poetry
  • FR326 The City of Paris and the Modern Imagination
  • PhD supervision:
    • Ambra Minoli
    • Abigail Coppins

Administrative roles

  • On research leave 2023-24.
  • Head of French Studies (2020-2023)
  • Senior Tutor in French (2016-18)


Current book projects:
  • Morphine Manias: Narratives of Addiction in French Literature and History, 1870-1930. Monograph.
  • The Fiquet Affair: Murder, Morphine and Medicine in Fin-de-Siècle France. Monograph.
Books published:
  • Prohibitions and Psychoactive Substances in History, Culture and Theory (London: Routledge, 2019). Edited book.
  • Voices from the Asylum: Four French Women Writers, 1850-1920 (Oxford University Press, 2010). Monograph.
Books for a non-academic audience:
  • Now We Are Forty: Conversations With Woman (2023). Available to read here.
Journal articles and book chapters (peer reviewed):
  • ‘To whom does a Letter Belong? Psychopathology and Epistolography in the Asylum Letters of Antonin Artaud and Camille Claudel’, Modern Languages Open, 2021, vol. 1, no. 1: 1-18.
  • ‘Morphinisé/morphinomane/morphinée: cultural representations of a French opioid crisis, 1870–1940’. Contemporary French Civilization, vol. 44, no. 4 (2019): 332-357.
  • ‘A Medicine for the Soul: Morphine and Prohibition in the French Cultural Imagination, 1870-1916,’ in Susannah Wilson (ed.) Prohibitions and Psychoactive Substances in History, Culture and Theory (London: Routledge, 2019): 51-70.
  • ‘Introduction,’ in Susannah Wilson (ed.) Prohibitions and Psychoactive Substances in History, Culture and Theory (London: Routledge, 2019): 1-9.
  • ‘Emaciation as a Subversive Strategy in the Goncourts’ Renée Mauperin and an Early Case of Hysterical Anorexia,’ in Medicine and Maladies: Representing Affliction in Nineteenth-Century France, ed. Sophie Leroy (Leiden: Brill, 2018): 154-170.
  • ‘Gender, Genius and the Artist’s Double Bind: The Letters of Camille Claudel, 1880-1910,’ Modern Language Review, Vol. 112, No. 2 (April 2017): 362-80.
  • ‘Anorexia and its Metaphors,’ Exchanges, Vol. 3, No. 2 (April 2016): 216-226.
  • ‘The Iconography of Anorexia Nervosa in the Long Nineteenth Century’, in Picturing Women’s Health, ed. by Kate Scarth, et al. (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2014): 77-104.
  • ‘Writing from the Asylum: Re-assessing the Voices of Female Patients in the History of Psychiatry in France’, in Being Human: Reflections on Mental Distress in Society, ed. by Alastair Morgan (Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, 2011): 99-109.
  • Foreign Artists and Communities in Modern Paris, 1870-1914: Strangers in Paradise, by Karen L. Carter and Susan Waller (eds), Modern & Contemporary France, Vol. 25, No. 3 (2016): 336-337.

  • Suzanne Noël: Cosmetic Surgery, Feminism and Beauty in Early Twentieth-Century France, by Paula J. Martin, Gender and History, Volume 28, Issue 1 (April 2016): 227–228.

  • Without Ground: Lacanian Ethics and the Assumption of Subjectivity, by Calum Neill, French Studies, Vol. 69, No. 3 (2015): 413-414.

  • Stendhal's Less-Loved Heroines: Fiction, Freedom, and the Female, by Maria C. Scott, Modern Language Review, Vol. 109, No. 4 (2014): 1084-1085.

  • The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon: Toward a Political History of Madness, by Laure Murat,Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Vol 43, No. 3 & 4 (Spring-Summer 2015): 1259.
  • Autour de l’extrême littéraire, ed. by Alastair Hemmens and Russell Williams, French Studies, Vol. 67, No. 4 (2013): 582-583

  • I provided new translations from the French for a Penguin Classics edition of Charles Darwin's Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (2005), ed. by Dr Michael Neve and Dr Sharon Messenger of the Wellcome Trust Centre for History of Medicine, UCL.



BA, MA (Manchester), Licence ès Lettres Modernes (Bourgogne), D.Phil (Oxford). I have also completed the Warwick PCAPP qualification (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic and Professional Practice) and I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Office: FAB 4.43

Advice and feedback hours:

I am on research leave in 2023-24.

I am available to meet colleagues and students by appointment in my office or on Teams. Please email me if you would like to schedule a meeting.

I can also be contacted by phone any time during normal office hours (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)

Tel. 02476 151365 (internal x. 51365)


Undergraduate modules (2022-23)

FR2012 translation

FR362 The City of Paris and the Modern Imagination

Front cover of Now We Are Forty