Joanna Beaufoy

Joanna Beaufoy

PhD fellow

Provisional project title: "A Little Light Appeared at the Window: Love Lighting in Paris 1855-1910"

Main supervisor: Lene Østermark-Johansen, Professor, Copenhagen University. Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.
Co-supervisor: Carsten Meiner, Professor, Copenhagen University.

The key question my PhD research explores is: "What were the effects of the shift from gas to electric lighting in late 19th century Paris on writing about love?"

Nineteenth century Paris saw extraordinary innovations in the possibilities of emotional experience as affected by light, transforming from a place lit by oil lanterns, to gas light and mass public street lighting, to electric lighting in just a few decades. The effects of these technologies on the emotional experiences of people living at the time are documented — albeit through fiction — by poets and novelists at the time. However, the effects of the technological changes in artificial lighting on emotions and relationships is yet under-explored in French literature studies in this period.

The project, presented in five academic articles, takes Paris as a case study of a place where some writers employed new lighting technologies to convey and tell stories about love.

Articles for the PhD submission will discuss literature of the period set in Paris to explore how these new technologies were employed poetically and discursively, to fulfil aesthetic, narrative and rhetorical functions of fiction. 

The project will also ask more philosophical and social questions — very relevant to society today — about who is behind the interaction between technology and our emotions. I will compare literary texts with design documents and memoir as historical sources to ask whether this influence of lighting on feelings of love, which writers were describing, were somehow « designed » as part of the creation of modern Paris. In the creation of new public spaces in Second Empire Paris, to what extent did its designers of everyday things produce spaces which — intentionally or un-intentionally — encouraged or inspired love?

My methodologies are literature analysis in French and English writing about Paris, using design history as historical context. One of the articles will present research using digital visualisation methods, and the project will discuss this process and suggest useful it could be to literature scholars studying technology and the history of emotions.

My PhD project is part of a wider research project, "Where Love Happens: Topographies of Emotions in Nineteenth-Century European Literature" funded by the Velux Foundation. The project will include in 2023 with an interactive exhibition at the German Romanticism Museum in Frankfurt, and other museum collaborations are being explored.

At the department of English, German and Romance Languages I am also a lecturer. My PhD includes designing and teaching the following courses:
- An introduction to French literature and culture: 1789 to 1945 (Spring semester 2022, co-taught with Professor Meiner)
- New approaches to French Naturalism: environmental history and anthropocene philosophy (Spring semester 2023, brand new course)

I was previously a content designer at Bayes Impact, a Paris-based technology nonprofit, working as part of a product team designing an advice and coaching experience for jobseekers.

My research interests include:

  • French literature and linguistics
  • Service Design
  • Experience Design
  • Design Research
  • Digital Humanities
  • Qualitative Methods
  • History of Emotions
  • Environmental History

ID: 283747185