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Author Eleanor Lischka is doing a DPhil in French literature at New College

How would you introduce your doctoral project to a non-specialist?

EL: It is about whether we should see the writing of Marcel Proust as more prosaic or more poetic, and argues that, like in poetry, he uses the sound of words to make his point. 

Can you tell us about the subject of your prize-winning article?

The article discusses an early essay of Proust’s in which he rallies against the obscurity he sees as endemic in the poetry of the late-nineteenth century. I argue that he is promoting the idea that poetic language should be a union of both the sound of words and their meaning (and hence that he is against poetry with unintelligible syntax that doesn’t seem to mean anything). I then explain why this pits him against the idea (popular among some poets at the time) that poetry should aspire to the purity of music in being completely non-representational.

What got you interested in studying French?

I read Zola’s Thérèse Raquin when I was 14 and never looked back!

Where in Oxford do you most like working?

On the first floor of the philosophy library in the Radcliffe Humanities building.

Which little-known French text would you recommend to a general reader?

I’m not sure how little known it is but I enjoyed Hérémakhonon by Maryse Condé. It's a very irreverent take on identity politics and privilege that probes the relationship between diasporic communities and their ancestral countries of origin.