Dr Helen AbbottDr Helen Abbott

Senior Lecturer

Telephone: (0114) 222 4895

email: h.abbott@sheffield.ac.uk


BA (Cantab), MA (King's College London), PhD (King’s College London)


I studied for my first degree in French and Italian at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and after a short spell working as an investment banking analyst in the city, I returned to academia. In 2003, I completed an MA in the French department at King’s College London, working on authors as varied as Montaigne, Boileau, and Baudelaire. Following the completion of my PhD thesis on ‘The Aesthetics of Voice in the works of Baudelaire and Mallarmé’ in 2006, I took up a Lectureship in French at Bangor University, becoming Head of French in 2009. I joined the Department of French at Sheffield in 2012, following a period of research leave in 2010-2011, for which I was awarded a Visiting Fellowship at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies (University of London) and an AHRC Early Career Fellowship. My postgraduate research (2002-2006) was also funded by the AHRC, and during my time in London I taught French language and literature at King's, and Italian language at Roehampton University. I am also a classically-trained soprano, and regularly give solo and consort recitals, as well as delivering French language coaching sessions for professional singers.

Research Interests

  • Rhetoric, poetics, music and aesthetics 1850-1950, with particular emphasis on theories of voice
  • Post-romantic French poetry, and in particular Baudelaire, Gautier, Mallarmé, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Verlaine, Valéry, and Post-romantic French song, and in particular Berlioz, Charpentier, Debussy, Duparc, Fauré, Vierne
  • Developments in aesthetic theory from the nineteenth century onwards (in particular the work of René Ghil, Jacques Rancière, and neuroscientific theories of ‘pre-movement’ and resource-sharing)
  • Influence of French symbolist poetics on early twentieth-century Italian poetry (in particular the poetry of Dino Campana, Eugenio Montale and Gabriele D’Annunzio)

Current and Recent Research Projects

  • PI for The Baudelaire Song Project (AHRC funded 2015-2019), researching all the song settings of Baudelaire with CoI Dr Mylène Dubiau (Toulouse II-Jean Jaurès) and HRI Digital (University of Sheffield). See baudelairesong.org, @BaudelaireProj for project updates, and project infographic for more info.
  • Hector Berlioz / Théophile Gautier, Les Nuits d'été recitals, creative collaborations, and coaching sessions with professional singers (including Sophie Bevan) and translators (including Eleanor Brown) February 2014
  • Aloysius Bertrand / Maurice Ravel 'Gaspard de la Nuit'. Related interview on ABC Australia 'Into The Music' (broadcast 6 April 2013)
  • Co-organiser, with Richard Langham Smith, of Debussy symposium ‘Debussy Text and Idea’, London 12-13 April 2012 (fully podcast online). Related interview on BBC Radio 4 programme 'Songs for Madame Vasnier' (broadcast 10 January 2012).
  • Collaboration with pianist Sholto Kynoch, Artistic Director of Oxford Lieder (including series adviser, and numerous pre-concert talks)
  • Member of Oxford Song Network: Poetry and Performance research group (TORCH network)
  • Member of SongArt Performance Research Group (podcasts available online)
  • Collaboration with IRPALL at Université Toulouse II-Jean Jaurès, working on French mélodie.
  • My research blog is: http://helenabbott.wordpress.com/

Key Recent Publications

  • Monograph: Parisian Intersections: Baudelaire’s Legacy to Composers, (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012) ISBN 978-3-0343-0805-2
  • Monograph: Between Baudelaire and Mallarmé: Voice, Conversation and Music (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), ISBN 978-0-7546-6745-2
  • 'Baudelaire and Electronica: strange voices and Ruth White's 1960s experimentations', Comparative Critical Studies 12.3 (2015), 357-376.
  • ‘“I turned to look at you to read my thought upon your face”: Baudelaire’s readers transposed’, Poets as Readers, ed. by Joseph Acquisto, Adrianna Paliyenko and Catherine Witt (London: IMLR, 2015), pp. 131-147
  • ‘Transpositions des Illuminations, ou Rimbaud en musique’ Parade sauvage 25 (2014), 301-321
  • 'Song settings of Baudelaire's poetry' in Tom Hubbard (ed.), Critical Insights: The Poetry of Baudelaire (Ipswich, MA: Grey House Publishing / Salem Press, 2014), pp. 195-208
  • 'Poetry, Performance, Music in Nineteenth-Century France'. Editorial for special issue of Dix-Neuf 17:1 (2013), 1-8 on Poetry, Performance, Music, edited by Helen Abbott with Katharine Ellis
  • ‘Baudelaire’s “Le Jet d’eau” and the politics of performance’ Dix-Neuf 17:1 (2013), 37-56
  • ‘Failed departures and inevitable returns: impossible journeys in Baudelaire and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’ in Loïc Guyon and Andrew Watts (eds), Allers-Retours: Nineteenth-century France in Motion (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013), pp. 16-28
  • ‘Performing Poetry as Music: How Composers Accept Baudelaire’s Invitation to Song’, in Phyllis Weliver and Katharine Ellis (eds), Words and Notes in the Long Nineteenth Century (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2013), pp.183-203
  • 'Poetic Time and Space, or What Fauré Learns from Baudelaire' in Mario Dunkel, Emily Petermann & Burkhard Sauerwald (eds), Time and Space in Words and Music (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2012), pp.137-149
  • ‘Working at the words/music interface: models of collaboration’, 'Setting Agendas' special issue of Contemporary Music Review 29:2 (2010), 159–169. Joint paper with Chris Collins (Bangor University)
  • ‘Sacred rhythms, tired rhythms: Dino Campana’s poetry’, 'Rhythm in Literature after the Crisis in Verse' special issue of Paragraph 33:2 (2010), 260–279
  • ‘Poetry and Music: a doomed love affair?’ French Studies Bulletin 30 (2009), 84–87, including own recording of relevant song setting together with Leverhulme-funded Pianist in Residence at Bangor University, Sholto Kynoch.
  • ‘Reading and deciphering: Mallarmé’s rhythmic sensation’, in Elizabeth Lindley and Laura McMahon (eds), Rhythms: Essays in French Literature, Thought and Culture (Bern: Peter Lang, 2008) ISBN 978-3-03911-349-1
  • ‘Politics or poetics? Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s “Vox populi”’, Romance Studies 26:2 (2008), 126–135.
  • ‘Music and Poetry at the Crossroads: Baudelaire, Debussy and “Recueillement”’, Dix-Neuf, 8 (2007), 18–38. Joint paper in collaboration with Dr David Evans (University of St Andrews) which includes our own recordings of song settings and relevant excerpts. Paper awarded High Commendation by the Society for French Studies Malcolm Bowie Prize 2008

Professional Activities

Postgraduate Research

  • Eleanor Hodgson (Sheffield, 2011-2015, awarded 2015): ‘Reflections of writing, rewriting, and reading in twelfth-century French literature: A study of Guillaume de Palerne as a self-reflexive romance’
  • Gemma Wheeler (Sheffield, 2015-present): ‘Geffrei Gaimar's Estoire des Engleis
  • João Henriques (Sheffield, 2013-2015, withdrawn): 'Aesthetics of exoticism in French literature and music in the late Baroque period (1670-1750)'
  • Sven Greitschus (Bangor, 2010-2014, completed 2015): ‘Reading the Modern City in French Prose Poetry from Baudelaire to Réda’
  • Armelle Blin-Rolland (Bangor, awarded 2011): ‘Back and Forth between Written and Spoken: Studies of transposed voices in Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit, Queneau’s Zazie dans le métro and their Adaptations’

I am interested in supervising research in the following areas: words/music relations, poetry and poetics (especially nineteenth-century French), voice/performance in relation to literary texts



  • MA in French Studies: Cultural Studies (units on Exchanging Voices, including Barthes, Bakhtin and Derrida)


I teach French language at all levels, and the following modules:

  • FRE107/8 French Studies: lectures on Poetry (Baudelaire, Verlaine, Apollinaire)
  • FRE111/2 French Critical Contexts (Barthes, Rancière)
  • FRE287/8 Nineteenth-century Voices
  • FRE387/8 Poetry and Performance