Dr Helen Craske

Junior Research Fellow in Modern Languages

My research focuses on French literary culture of the late nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on novels, reviews, and magazines.

I completed my doctorate at the University of Oxford in 2021 before taking up my position as a Junior Research Fellow. This first project, entitled ‘Complicity in Fin-de-Siècle Literature’, analyses the representation and creation of shared crime and guilt in late nineteenth-century France: an era when writers, publishers, and editors, could – and did – face trial alongside one another as accomplices in literary crimes such as obscenity, libel, and political sedition. Throughout my analysis, I ask questions about reading and reception, highlighting the ways in which fin-de-siècle authors encouraged readers to share responsibility for ideas and works considered immoral, if not outright illicit. To do this, I consider a wide range of genres, including psychological novels, murder fiction, and the saucy magazine.

Using this latter example as a springboard, my second project is a literary history of the saucy magazine, c. 1880–1914. In a period of French history when the newspaper trade was booming, an array of low-cost titillating reviews entered the mass media marketplace and flourished there. My study charts the genre’s evolution, its general themes, and its aesthetic tendencies, in order to assess its contribution to turn of the century French culture. Highlighting the formal specificity of journalism – its seriality, page layout, and production of ephemeral material (such as posters, advertisements, and supplements) – I reconstruct the networks of publication, marketing, and reception that brought together the editors, contributors, and readers of saucy magazines at the fin de siècle.

[Photo: © Ian Wallman]


‘Periodicals as proxénètes: Erotic Complicity in Don Juan (1895–1900)’ – forthcoming in French Studies

‘La complicité en réseau dans la presse frivole fin-de-siècle’ – Le Magasin du XIXe siècle, SERD, No. 10: 76–81

‘Partners in Crime? Scandalous Complicity Between Rachilde and Jean Lorrain’Nineteenth-Century French Studies, 2020, Vol. 48, Nos. 3–4: 326–343

‘Desire and the demi-vierge: the Impenetrable Ideal in Decadent Fiction’Dix-Neuf, 2018, Vol.22, Issues 1–2: 23–38

‘La Marquise de Sade’, The Literary Encyclopedia, First published 26 July 2017