Lillian Fontaine (Specker)

I am a DPhil candidate from Sydney, Australia. Prior to commencing postgraduate studies at Oxford, I completed a Bachelor of Arts/Languages at the University of Sydney, majoring in both French and Italian, followed by an Honours Degree for which my thesis, written in French, was awarded the University Medal.  It analysed the politics and ethics of intertextuality between Albert Camus’s L’Étranger (1942) and a contemporary postcolonial “rewriting” of the canonical work by Kamel Daoud, entitled Meursault, contre-enquête (2014). I have also spent some time studying at Sciences Po, Paris in 2015. 


Current Research

My doctoral project seeks to investigate spectrality and intertextuality in contemporary Algerian francophone literature, through a corpus of prose fiction written in French by a generation of Algerian writers who, for the most part, were born after Independence. Mobilising Derrida’s theory of hauntologie, wherein the figure of the spectre incarnates ambivalence, liminality, and epistemological instability, my focus is two-fold: I am interested not only in how phantomatic imagery in this body of work is being used as a means of engaging with a deeply traumatic colonial history, but moreover how conceiving of literature and storytelling as inherently spectral and non-fixed artforms can present a challenge to overbearing state narratives that seek to cement a singular, restrictive version of history and identity onto its people.  My thesis sets out to develop a new model of spectrality for that which has been emerging in Algeria since the turn of the century, following a decade-long civil war known as la décennie noire. This model posits haunting (both literal and figurative) as an increasingly future-focussed phenomenon, and explores what the growing postcolonial trend of ‘rewriting’ and appropriating classic works — in both the French and Arabic canons — can reveal about Algeria’s changing concerns as it moves further away from its colonial past. Authors I’m currently exploring (not all of whom will feature in the final thesis) are: Salim Bachi,  Kamel Daoud, Kaouther Adimi, Boualem Sansal, Assia Djebar, Adlène Meddi, Maïssa Bey, Samir Toumi,  Mustapha Benfodil, Alice Zeniter, and Malika Mokeddem.

My wider academic interests include 20th and 21st century French and Francophone Thought; World Literature; Postcolonial Theory; North African and Caribbean (feminist) writings; Camus’s Philosophy of the Absurd and ideas of révolte. In terms of literary criticism, I am particularly engaged with theories of intertextuality, postsecularism, islamogauchisme, Derridean deconstruction, and hauntologie. 



Paper II: Translation - Prelims (2021-22, 2022-23); Final Honours School (to & from French, 2020-21)

Paper III & IV Prelims: tutorials on Marie NDiaye and Maryse Condé (2022)

Paper VIII: Modern French Literature (a range of francophone & postcolonial topics, 2021-2022)

Paper XI: Special Author — Assia Djebar (2020, 2021, 2022)

Paper XII: Introduction to French Literary Theory - French Sole Prelims (2021, 2022)

I am also lecturing on Camus and Algeria as part of the Graduate Lecture Scheme (HT 2022, 2023)

Tutor in Francophone Literatures for Stanford House, Stanford University in Oxford (2023)

Outreach: Academic Taster Session — French (Exeter, May 2022)

Undergraduate Admissions Interviewer 2020, 2021, 2022 (Exeter, St Anne’s)

‘Subject specialist supervisor’ for Waynflete Project, Magdalen School College (2020)


Selected Papers & Presentations

Writing the Black Decade: Conflict and Criticism in Francophone Algerian Literature by Joseph Ford’ (review). Modern and Contemporary France 31.1, March 2023 (published online 20 July 2022), pp. 124-125. DOI: 10.1080/09639489.2022.2098938

‘The Body as Book: Literary (and Literal) Possession in Kamel Daoud’s Zabor ou les psaumes‘ (2017), Australian Society for French Studies Conference, University of Sydney, 6-8 December 2023

‘The Writer as Prophet, Saviour, or Scapeghost? Storytelling and the Postsecular in Kamel Daoud’, British Comparative Literature Association ECR Conference, University of Warwick, October 12-13 2023

‘Contre l’identité nationale? Les spectres interculturels et intertextuels dans l’oeuvre de Salim Bachi’, Congrès mondial du CIÉF, Hammamet (Tunisia), 19-25 June 2023 

‘Spectral Storytelling and the Role of the Writer in Kamel Daoud’s Zabor ou les psaumes’, Oxford Modern French Research Seminar, Maison Française d’Oxford, 18 May 2023

‘The Thousand and One Ghosts: Stories as Revenants in Contemporary Algerian Francophone Literature’, The Society for French Studies Annual Conference, Queen’s University Belfast, June 2022

‘Ghostly Encounters Between Texts Across Time: Rewriting and Retelling in Salim Bachi’s Amours et aventures de Sindbad le marin (2010)’, Society for the Study of French History Annual Conference: Rencontres, Exeter College, University of Oxford, 10-13 April 2022

The above paper was also presented in revised format at the Australian Society for French Studies Annual Conference on ‘Mo(u)vement’, 12-14 December 2022, Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand (online)

‘Contre contre-enquête? La Spectralité de l’intertextualité dans Meursault, contre-enquête par Kamel Daoud’, ASMCF & SSFH Postgraduate Conference at Queen’s University Belfast, 7 March 2020 (online)

‘Réécrire L’Étranger « de droite à gauche »: Le spectre de Camus et du patrimoine littéraire français en Algérie’, French Graduate Research Seminar, All Souls College, University of Oxford, March 2020


Academic Prizes and Awards

  • Prix Jeune Chercheur, Conseil International d’Études Francophones 2023
  • St Anne’s Graduate Development Scholarship 2021-23
  • The Society for the Study of French History’s Early Career Researcher Support Grant 2021
  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy 2021
  • University of Sydney Medal 2017 ( for ‘best’ thesis in the School of Languages and Cultures and a final mark of over 90% across the entire Honours course, only awarded if research is sufficiently ‘outstanding’) 
  • Margaret Ann Bailey Memorial Prize for Honours in a Modern European Language 2017
  • Emilie M. Schweitzer Honours Scholarship for French Studies 2017
  • Helen Simpson Prize for French 2017
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ Walter Reid Memorial Prize 2013
  • Anne Bates Memorial Scholarship for French 2013
  • Countess E. M Freehill Prize No. 1 for Italian 2012
  • University of Sydney Academic Merit Prize 2012
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