Diana Holmes

Diana Holmes


I studied at the University of Sussex, then went to Paris (Paris III) to write a maitrise (M.A) on the Resistance writer Vercors, before returning to Sussex for a PhD on  'Images of women in the inter-war French novel'. Having discovered the joys of teaching as well as researching, I applied for academic jobs and taught first at what was then the Polytechnic, Wolverhampton, with an intermitted period part-timing at North London Poly and Ealing (later Thames Valley), before joining Keele University in 1992 as Senior Lecturer then Professor of French. I came to Leeds in September 1999, which coincided with the award of a Leverhulme Fellowship to support the writing of a monograph on Rachilde, the only woman writer of the fin-de-siècle Decadent movement (see publications).

My specialist teaching has been on women writers and on French cinema, and at Leeds I also contributed to the successful development of the Centre for World Cinemas. From 2018 to 2021 I was also Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham. I have served on the executive committees of the major French Studies scholarly and professional associations, chaired the national Gapper Book Prize 2008–10, and am currently President of the Society for French Studies.  I have been one of the organisers of the 'Women In French' feminist network since it was founded in 1988. In 1998 I was awarded the Chevalier dans l’ordre des palmes académiques, for services to French culture, and in 2023 was honoured to be awarded the status of Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.  



  • Colette  (Macmillan, 1991).
  • French Women Writers 1848–1994  (Athlone, Women in Context Series, 1996).         
  • François Truffaut (Manchester University Press, 1998) co-authored with Robert Ingram.
  • Rachilde – Decadence Gender and the Woman Writer (Berg, 2001).
  • Romance and Readership in Twentieth-Century France: Love Stories (Oxford University Press, 2006).
  • Middlebrow Matters: Women's reading and the literary canon in France since the Belle Époque (Liverpool University Press, 2018). Winner of the 2018 MLA Aldo & Jeanne Scaglione Prize, 2019.

Journal Special Issue

Postfeminism à la française, Nottingham French Studies Vol.61, no.3, Winter 2022. Editor + author of introducion and article ‘Women’s Fiction in Postfeminist France: Léonora Miano, Camille Laurens and Chick-Lit or romances urbaines’. 

Edited books

  • 100 years of European Cinema: Entertaining Ideologies (Manchester University Press, 2000), with Alison Smith.
  • A ‘Belle Epoque’? Women in French Society and Culture 1890–1914 (Berghahn, 2005), with Carrie Tarr.
  • Stardom in Postwar France (Berghahn 2007), with John Gaffney.
  • Women, Genre and Circumstance: essays in memory of Elizabeth Fallaize, with Margaret Atack, Diana Knight, Judith Still (Legenda, 2012).
  • Imagining the Popular: highbrow, lowbrow and middlebrow in contemporary French culture (Manchester University Press 2013), with David Looseley.
  • Finding the Plot - Storytelling in popular fictions, with David Platten, Loic Artiaga, Jacques Migozzi (Cambridge Scholars publications, 2013).
  • French Feminisms 1975 and After, with Margaret Atack, Alison Fell, Imogen Long (Peter Lang, 2017).
  • Making Waves: French Feminisms and their Legacies 1975-2015, with Margaret Atack, Alison Fell, Imogen Long (Liverpool University Press,  2019).
  • ‘Conscience féminine, èlève la voix!’ Introduction à l’œuvre de Daniel Lesueur, with Martine Reid (Champion, 2022 forthcoming) 

Selected articles in refereed journals (from 2010)

  • ‘No common places: exile as loss and gain in the work of Nancy Huston and other writers from elsewhere’ in S.Jordan & M-C Barnet (eds.), Special Issue of Dalhousie French Studies on Women and Space (Fall 2011).
  • ‘To write is a transitive verb: Nancy Huston and the ethics of the novel’ in Alec Hargreaves (ed.), Special Issue of Contemporary French and Francophone Studies-SitesLittérature-Monde : New Wave or New Hype,  Vol. 14, Issue 1, January 2010, pp. 85–92.
  • ‘Ouvrière des lettres'. Writing as work, fiction as play: the case of Daniel Lesueur.’ In Dix-neuf - Journal of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes, 2012.
  • ‘Literary prizes, women and the middlebrow’ in Contemporary French Civilisation, Vol. 41, Issue 3–4, 437–448
  • Negotiating the middlebrow - women writers and literary stardom in contemporary France’ in Celebrity Studies  Volume 7, Number 4, 2016
  • ‘The Way We Read Now: Middlebrow Fiction in Twenty-First Century Europe’ in CALL Irish Journal for Culture, Arts, Literature and Language, Volume 2, Issue 1 (2017) The Cultures of Popular Culture 
  • ‘Dancing in the Dark: immersion and self- reflexivity in Nancy Huston's Danse noire’ in Nancy Huston, ed. Kate Averis, Special issue of Nottingham French Studies, 57.3 (2018), pp. 298–310.
  • ‘Bad sex/good sex. Nancy Huston and the boundaries of erotic writing’ in ‘Sexual/Textual Boundaries: Women Writing Sexual Encounter in French, France and Canada (2000–2015)’, special issue of  L’Esprit créateur , edited by Kate Averis, Egl Kakut and Catherine Mao, 59:3 (2019) Fall, pp. 60–72.
  • ‘Une littérature illégitime – le « middlebrow »’ in Belphégor [En ligne], 17. 1. 2019, mis en ligne le 13 mars 2019
  • ‘L’Amour et la lecture à l’heure de #metoo - du populaire au middlebrow’ , Légipop : Valeurs critiques et littérature populaire, Le Pardaillan – revue de littératures populaires et cultures médiatique, no.9,2021, pp. 11–22.  
  • ‘La teoría literaria feminista y la figura de la lectora’ in Tropelías – revista de la teoría de la literatura y la litérature comparada, Núm. 36 (2021) [Dossier: Teoría y crítica literaria feminista: rumores, ausencias y , ed. Isabelle Marc y Cristina Oñoro), 2021-08-13, pp. 51–68.
  • ‘Modelling age - ageing women writers and their readers (Annie Ernaux, Margaret Drabble)’, French Studies, August  2023. 

Selected book chapters (from 2010)

  • Le ‘je’ féministe et le temps qui passe: Colette, Agnès Varda, Nancy Huston’  in Les féministes de la deuxième vague, ed. Christine Bard. Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012, pp.211–218.
  • La masculinité dans les romans de Daniel Lesueur’ in F. Grenaudier-Klijn et al, Écrire les hommes. Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 2012. pp. 93–211.
  • ‘Dealing with what is dealt: feminists and ageing’ in Margaret Atack, Diana Holmes, Diana Knight and Judith Still (eds.), Women, Genre and Circumstance: essays in memory of Elizabeth Fallaize  (Legenda 2012), pp. 123–37.
  • ‘The Mimetic Prejudice: Popular fiction in France’ in Diana Holmes and David Looseley (eds.) Imagining the Popular: highbrow, lowbrow and middlebrow in contemporary French culture (2013 – see above), pp. 85–122.
  • ‘What women read. Contemporary women’s writing and the bestseller’ in Women's Writing in Twenty-First-Century France: Life as Literature, ed. Gill Rye and Amaleena Damlé. University of Wales Press, 2013, pp. 30–46.
  • ‘Picaresque Plots and Improper Heroines: Popular Historical Sagas in 20th Century France’ in  Finding the Plot - Storytelling in popular fictions, ed. Holmes, Platten, Artiaga, Migozzi (2013 -see above), pp.152–164.
  • ‘The open sea but not the wilderness’: Light and Clarity in the Late Work of Colette and Agnes Varda’, in Lucidity – Essays in Honour of Alison Finch, ed. Ian James and Emma Wilson, Legenda 2016, pp. 169–180.
  • Corín Tellado: Thursdays with Leila (translated by Duncan Wheeler), MHRA New Translations, vol.9., 2016. Introduction by Duncan Wheeler and Diana Holmes, pp. 1–19.
  • « Les hommes et les femmes, c'est vraiment pas pareil »: Nancy Huston's Passions d'Annie Leclerc’ in Making Waves: French Feminisms and their Legacies 1975–2015, ed. Margaret Atack, Alison Fell, Diana Holmes, Imogen Long (Liverpool University Press, 2019)
  • ‘Plaisir de lire: Women readers and the popular bestsellers of Guillaume Musso’ in Plaisirs de Femmes: Women’s Pleasures and their Discontents in French Literature and Culture, eds. Maggie Allison, Elliot Evans and Carrie Tarr (Peter Lang, 2019), pp. 153–68. 
  • ‘Femmes et prix littéraires’ in Ángeles Ciprés Palacín and Isabelle Marc (eds), Canons et écrits de femmes en France et en Espagne dans l’actualité (2011–2016) Canon y escritos de mujeres en Francia y en Espana en la actualidad (2011–2016) (Bern: Peter Lang, 2020), pp. 31–49.
  • Plaisirs d’amour: Love and popular fiction in contemporary France’ in Mary Harrod, Suzanne Leonard and Diane Negra (eds.), IMAGINING “WE” IN THE AGE OF “I” Romance and Social Bonding in Contemporary Culture (Routledge 2022), pp. 175–190.
  • « Romans romanesques » : Daniel Lesueur et le roman-feuilleton populaire’ in Conscience féminine, èlève la voix!’ Introduction à l’œuvre de Daniel Lesueur, ed. Diana Holmes & Martine Reid (Honoré Champion, 2022)
  • ‘Un rendez-vous manqué?  Femmes de lettres et revues littéraires à la Belle Époque’ in Des Revues et des femmes, ed. Camille Koskas, Amélie Auzoux et Lisa Russo (Honoré Champion, 2022 ).
  • La Vagabonde assise – space, place and the meaning of home in Colette and other women writers”, Volume 34, Issue 1 of French Cultural Studies https://doi.org/10.1177/09571558221144368
  • ‘Modelling age - ageing women writers and their readers (Annie Ernaux, Margaret Drabble)’ , French Studies ‘Ageism, Ageing and Old Age in Contemporary French Culture’ (August 2023).

Research interests

It was when I came to embark on a PhD that I realised to what extent ‘literature’, especially in France, was largely synonymous with ‘writing by men’. The final chapter of my thesis is devoted to Colette: my first monograph was then a study of her work, and women’s writing became my main field of research, with an emphasis on the period from late 19th century to the present, on social and cultural context, and on what women read. Interest in readership and the social impact of the novel has also meant that my definition of literature includes mass-market or popular fiction. Projects with colleagues at Leeds  led to the production of a major study of Popular Culture in France (Imagining the Popular, co-edited with David Looseley), and to seminars, a conference, a journal Special issue and an edited book on popular fictions (with David Platten, and our French partners the Litteratures Populaires et Cultures Mediatiques group).  My latest monograph is on the middlebrow – that is, the page-turner that deals with serious issues, the mainstream novel that attracts large readerships but rather less critical esteem. Recent conference papers and work in progress deal with representations of ageing by women writers, (a return to) how love and romance are imagined in contemporary narrative fiction, once famous and now forgotten women writers of the Belle Epoque, and ‘postfeminism'.

Through teaching, I also came to a secondary research interest in cinema, and co-wrote a study of the cinema of Francois Truffaut (Manchester University Press, 1998). I co-edit the French Film Directors series (Manchester University Press) in which this volume appeared; the series is large and growing, with almost 50 volumes already published and several more in preparation. I have also written on the stardom of Brigitte Bardot, on the relationship between entertainment and ideology in film, and on gender and the French New Wave. I am currently working on the only French woman film director of the period 1940s-50s, Jacqueline Audry, and in particular her film adaptations of novels by Colette, notes and introduction for a new translation of some Colette novels, and a chapter on romance for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Women’s Writing in French. 

In December 2023 I was one of the speakers on Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time programme (BBC Radio 4), on the subject of Colette. At the French Institute’s Beyond Words Festival in London, May 2023, I interviewed Leslie Caron, star of the musical Gigi (adapted from a story by Colette), and chaired a round table on Colette’s  work with novelists Deborah Levy and Michele Roberts. https://beyondwordslitfest.co.uk/colette-by-deborah-levy-michele-roberts-emmanuelle-lambert-diana-holmes/ . In November 2023, I will be one of the speakers at a public event on the work of Colette hosted by the New York Maison française and the University of New York.


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD, University of Sussex 1978
  • littérature française (Mention très bien), Paris III, 1972.
  • B.A. Hons French (European Studies) Univ.of Sussex 1971

Professional memberships

  • Society for French Studies
  • Association for the Study of Modern & Contemporary France
  • Modern Language Association (USA)
  • Women in French UK - Ireland

Student education

Research supervision

I have supervised 8 PhDs and 4 MAs by Research to successful completion. I have examined 40 doctoral theses since 1991,12 of these from  countries beyond the UK including France, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Austrlalia and Ireland. In 2018 I received an ‘Outstanding Faculty Mentor’ award from the association Women in French Studies (US). I am happy to supervise students who want to work on popular fiction, women writers, feminism, cinema, reader reception – all of these either within French Studies or from a comparative perspective.

Research groups and institutes

  • Gender
  • Popular culture
  • Digital cultures
  • Literary studies
  • French
  • Centre for World Literatures

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>