Emily McLaughlin grew up in Derry in Northern Ireland. She studied French and Spanish at Oxford University and completed her postgraduate studies at Royal Holloway and Oxford University. She was a Junior Research Fellow at The Queen’s College, Oxford, and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Christ’s College, Cambridge.
She works on contemporary French literature, with a special focus on ecocriticism and ecological thought. She teaches French literature and thought from the nineteenth century to the present, as well as translation.
Emily’s current project explores how the grave threat posed to the global environment by crises such as climate change has caused twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers to re-evaluate the human perspective on other life forms. It explores the work of recent French and Francophone writers who interrogate the experiences of nonhuman presences, such as plants, animals, minerals, and even bacteria. She is drawn to writers who conduct unusual thought experiments, who ask themselves what it is like to be a plant or a bat, and who use language in inventive ways in order to approach realities that are necessarily beyond human comprehension. What interests her most about these kinds of texts is the unexpected affinities they reveal between human and non-human existences. Emily explores the weird and compelling – or weirdly compelling – feelings that these texts induce in readers when they start to make us question our most basic assumptions about what it means to be a human being, unsettling our deeply-engrained ideas about the role we play and the place we occupy in the physical world.
This project examines the works of a range of French and Francophone poets, the majority of whom experiment in a wide range of different genres, including novels, plays, diaries, and notebooks. It focuses the works of Eugène Guillevic, Philippe Jaccottet, Édouard Glissant, and Marie-Claire Bancquart, amongst others.
Emily’s first book – Yves Bonnefoy and Jean-Luc Nancy: Ontological Performance, coming out this year – explores how the French poet Yves Bonnefoy uses theatrical devices in his poetry in order to experiment with philosophical ideas about human subjectivity. Comparing Bonnefoy’s poetry with Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophy, it analyses how Bonnefoy uses the scene of poetic performance to expand our conception of communication, shifting it away from its merely semantic sense, and encouraging us to perceive it in physical, relational, and worldly terms. She explores how Bonnefoy uses the theatrical, sonorous, graphic, and material aspects of the textual performance to explore the physical and interactive nature of existence and to encourage us to understand our own subjectivity in similarly relational ways, as an activity that only comes into being through its intimate coexistence with other beings and other worldly presences.
For Prelims, Emily teaches the short literary texts for Paper III and the narrative texts for Paper IV to first-year students.
She teaches a wide range of texts for the Modern Period Paper to second- and final-year students, from nineteenth-century novels, to twentieth-century surrealist experimental texts and avant-garde theatre, to contemporary life writing. Emily particularly enjoys teaching the Paper XI Prescribed Authors in which students get a chance to explore the work of two authors in great depth. She teaches Samuel Beckett, Marguerite Duras, Assia Djebar, and Roland Barthes for this paper. She gradually introduces students to different critical approaches to literature throughout the course and covers some post-colonial, feminist, queer, and ecocritical theory in tutorials and seminars.
Emily gives a lecture series each year entitled ‘Rupture and Reformulation: experiments in twentieth-century French prose and poetry’. She also teaches the Methodologies Paper for the MSt course, ‘Key Questions in Critical Thought’.
Yves Bonnefoy and Jean-Luc Nancy: Ontological Performance (Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
The Made and the Found. Essays in Honour of Michael Sheringham, eds. Patrick McGuinness and Emily McLaughlin (Oxford: Legenda, 2017)
‘How to Think Like a Plant? Ponge, Jaccottet, Guillevic’ in What Forms Can Do. Essays for Michael Sheringham (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, forthcoming)
‘Gravity and Grace: Bonnefoy’s and Bergson’s “Monde-images”’ in Gravity and Grace. Essays for Roger Pearson (Oxford: Legenda, 2019)
‘“Et que faut-il penser / De ces pommes jaunes?” An Ecocritical Reading of Yves Bonnefoy’s Punctual Colour Work’, French Studies, 71.3 (2017), 348-361
‘The Practice of Writing and The Practice of Living: Michel Deguy’s and Philippe Jaccottet’s Ecopoetics’, Fixxions, 11 (2015)
‘Affirmation without end: Some Syntactical Similarities between the Poetry of Yves Bonnefoy and the Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy’, L’Esprit créateur, 55 (2015), 110‑122
‘Noli me tangere: Bonnefoy, Nancy, Derrida’, French Forum, 37 (2012), 183-95