Professor Julia Dobson


Professor Julia DobsonJulia Dobson

BA French and Russian, MA Critical Theory and Ph.D. (Nottingham)

Professor in French Film and Performance

Contemporary French film and performance: new auteurism, first person documentary, the theatre of Hélène Cixous and performing objects

Telephone: (0114) 222 2877


Julia Dobson read French and Russian at the University of Nottingham, where she continued postgraduate study an MA in Critical Theory and a PhD on the Theatre of Hélène Cixous and Marina Tsvetaeva. The interdisciplinary nature of her research led her to work in French, Film Studies and Cultural Theory at the universities of Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Warwick and Leeds before joining the School of Languages and Cultures in Sheffield in 2004.

Julia has developed interdisciplinary links and structures within the university in teaching and research. She has a longstanding record of external engagement – working with film festivals, distributors, schools and diverse audiences to share and encourage engagement with French film. Recent partners include Docfest, The London Comedy Film Festival, the bfi and the institut français. She is co-director of the Sheffield Centre for Research in Film and has held visiting research awards at the Forum des Images, Paris and the Institut international de la marionnette.


Julia is an active researcher across several fields – contemporary French film, cultural theory and contemporary performance. Her work across these fields engages with shifting dynamics of relationships between self and other and between discourses of the private and the public. Within such negotiations of identity, her research explores the representation of agency, voice and the body in contemporary theatre and shifting constructions of the private and the political in contemporary French film.

Her recent work in French film argues for close attention to the interactions between genre, gender and filmic discourses in the constructions of personal, social and political identities and is exemplified by her monograph: Negotiating the Auteur (Manchester University Press, 2012).

She has ongoing research interests in constructions of the ‘auteur’ in contemporary French film – with particular reference to the work of Jacques Audiard, the representation of adolescence in French cinema and the role of cinema in constructing spaces, co-editing Mapping Cinematic Norths (Peter Lang, 2016) with Jonathan Rayner.

Since the publication of her monograph The Scene of Writing: Hélène Cixous and the Theatre, (Bern: Peter Lang, 2002), she has continued to work on Hélène Cixous’ theatre. Her current book project is on object-based theatre, 'Performing objects: Puppets and beyond in contemporary French performance’ (Liverpool University Press). Performing objects - puppets, mannequins, dolls, automata, robots, everyday objects and machines - are present at the foundations and frontiers of popular and avant-garde performance. In a world of increasingly smart objects, artificial intelligences and commodified, enhanced bodies, the uncanny material presence and ambiguous agency of performing objects remains central to contemporary renegotiation of our understanding of otherness, of our relation to the material world and to what it means to be human. The book will create a coherent set of interdisciplinary discursive frameworks around the performing object, supported by detailed case studies to provide a timely critical insight into the diverse practices of material performance in France today.

Teaching and Supervision


Language teaching at all levels.

FRE283/4 French Documentary Film (module leader)
FRE305/6 Contemporary French Cinema (module leader)
FRE373/4 Contemporary French Theatres (module leader)
MDL103 Introduction to European Cinema (lecturer)
FRE117/8 Understanding Modern France (lecturer)


FRE6653/4 French Cultural Studies

FRE6656/7 Constructions of the City

IPA601 Introduction to Public Humanities

Research Supervision

Julia welcomes research proposals on contemporary French film (including documentary film), French theatre and performance (post-1950), cultural theory and gender studies and Hélène Cixous.

Current PhD students:

Victoria Pugh (URRD funded) ‘Gender, Display and performance in the National Fairground Archive’

Bridget Coulter (with Music) ‘Popular music and constructions of gender identity in girls’,

Martin Elms ‘Contemporary Algerian Visual Art’


Current administrative duties

Faculty Student Review Panel

Advisory Board Medical Humanities Sheffield

Sheffield Creative Arts, committee member

Previous administrative duties

Julia led interdisciplinary projects including as Academic Lead of the Interdisciplinary Programmes Office (Faculty of Arts) 2012-2016 and as Director of the MA Public Humanities 2013-2016. She has been School Director of Postgraduate Affairs and Director of Research and Innovation and has served on many departmental, faculty and university bodies including: Faculty of Arts Learning and Teaching Committee, Faculty of Arts Postgraduate Committee and University Strategic Curriculum Change Steering Group.

Professional Activities

Chair, White Rose College of Arts and Humanities Languages and Linguistics subject cluster

Studies in French Cinema - Editor

Reviewer of publication submissions for: Edinburgh University Press, French Studies, Forum for Modern Languages Studies, Modern and Contemporary France, Modern Drama.

External examiner: Modern Languages, University of Exeter 2011 – 2015, University of Birmingham 2014 – 2017 and University of Newcastle 2016 – 2019 

External examiner for PhD theses: University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Edinburgh.

Society for French Studies - member

Co-director of Sheffield Centre for Research in Film

Publications and Public Engagement 

Public Engagement

Julia has a longstanding commitment to external engagement and outreach activities in relation to French film. She works with film festivals, distributors, schools and diverse audiences to share and encourage engagement with French film. Recent partners include Docfest, The London Comedy Film Festival, the bfi and the institut français. She curated a strand in the international DocFest programme in 2013 on the work of Agnès Varda and introduced the UK avant-premiere of the Palme d’or winner ‘Dheepan’ to London audiences in 2016. She has worked with the Showroom cinema on events for schools and public audiences since 2004. Julia was involved in the setting up of the innovative MA in Public Humanities and supervises dissertations in this area.



Performing Objects: Puppets and Beyond in Contemporary French Performance (Liverpool University Press, forthcoming 2018)

Mapping Cinematic Norths with J. Rayner (eds) (Peter Lang, 2016)

Negotiating the Auteur: Cabrera, Lvovsky, Masson and Vernoux Manchester University Press (Manchester University Press, 2012

The Scene of Writing: Hélène Cixous and the Theatre (Bern: Peter Lang, 2002)

Chapters in Books

‘Dis-locations: mapping the banlieue’ in Forrest, Harper and Rayner (eds) Filmurbia: Cinema and the Suburbs (Palgrave Macmillan forthcoming 2017)

‘Representations of Northern France in Contemporary French Cinema’ in Dobson and Rayner (eds) Mapping Cinematic Norths, Peter Lang, 2016 (22 pages)

‘Hélène Cixous’ in Deeney and Gale (eds) Fifty Modern and Contemporary Dramatists (Routledge, 2015) pp. 57-62.

‘Troubling Matters: Mannequins, Murder and Gisèle Vienne’s corps troublants’ in Allison and Long (eds) Women/Matter: French and Francophone Women and the Material World, (Peter Lang, 2013), pp. 21-34.

‘Nationality, Authenticity, Reflexivity: Kieslowski’s "Three Colours" Trilogy’ (1999), vol. 3, pp. 234-45; ‘Jacques Audiard and the Filial Challenge’, (2007), vol. 4 pp. 179-89; ‘ Negotiating the Auteur’ (2012), vol. 4, pp. 1-20. Republication in P. Powrie (ed) French Cinema: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies (Routledge, 2013)

‘Asserting Text, Context and Intertext: Jill Forbes and French Film Studies' in W. Higbee and S. Leahy (eds) Studies in French Cinema. Perspectives 1985-2000 (Intellect, 2011), pp. 115-126.

'Cixous' Theatre and the Returns of the Dead' in M. Hutton (ed) Redefining the Real: The Fantastic in Contemporary French and Francophone Women's Writing, (Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 173-186.

‘Jacques Audiard: Contesting Filiations’ in K. Ince (ed) Four Directors: Auteurism from Assayas to Ozon, (Manchester University Press, 2008), pp. 38-58.

'First of all (from the margins) I am a reader reading ... / Je suis plutôt une lisante' Hélène Cixous’ in Willis and McQuillan (eds) The Origins of Deconstruction (Palgrave Macmillan 2010), pp. 73-84

‘The Scenes of Writing: Poetic Identity in Cixous’ Recent Theatre’ in Hansen and Cahill (eds) French Feminists: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory (Routledge, 2007)

‘Hélène Cixous’ in J. Simons (ed) Contemporary Critical Theorists, (Edinburgh University Press, 2004), pp. 118-134.

’Running Out of Place: Gender, Space and Crisis in Ferreira Barbosa’s 'Les Gens normaux n’ont rien d’exceptionnel’ and Lvovsky’s ‘Oublie-moi’’ in A. Hughes and J. Williams (eds) Gender and French Cinema (Berg 2001), pp. 241-254.

'Transatlantic Crossings: Ideology and the Remake’ in D. Holmes and A. Smith (eds) A Hundred Years of European Cinema. Entertainment or Ideology? (Manchester University Press, 2000) pp. 183-194.

‘Nationality, Authenticity, Reflexivity: Kieslowski’s ‘Three Colours’ Trilogy in P. Powrie (ed) ‘French Cinema in the Nineties: Continuity and Difference, (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 234-245.

Editorial and special issues

‘Jacques Audiard: 21st century auteur’ Special issue Studies in French Cinema 16 (3) 2016

‘French cinema studies now’ Special issue Studies in French Cinema 10 (1) 2010

with G. Rye (ed) ‘Revisiting the Scenes of Writing: New Readings of Hélène Cixous’ Paragraph 23 (3) 2000


‘Special Affects: Melodrama in Audiard’s ‘De Rouille et d’os (‘Rust and Bone’) (2012)’, Studies in French Cinema, 16 (3) 2016

‘Audiard A-Z’ in Studies in French Cinema, 16 (3) 2016

‘Ideal Suspects? The Investigation of Romance in Masson’s Guilty (Coupable) 2008’ Studies in European Cinema, 10 (1) 2013, pp. 11-20.

‘Timely Resistance in the Documentary Work of Dominique Cabrera’ French Studies LXII (3) 2008, pp. 290-300.

‘Jacques Audiard and the Filial Challenge’ Studies in French Cinema 7 (3), 2007, pp 179-189

‘At the Time of Writing Theatre: Cixous’ Absolute Present’, Paragraph 23 (3) (2000), pp. 270-281.

‘Tambours sur la digue: A First Response’ Paragraph 23 (3) (2000), pp. 344-349

Asserting Identities: The Theatres of Tsvetaeva and Cixous’ Forum for Modern Language Studies 35 (3) (1999), pp. 261-269.

‘The Scenes of Writing: Poetic Identity in Cixous’ Recent Theatre’ Theatre Research International 23 (3) (1998), pp. 257-262

The Staging of the Self: The Theatre and Hélène Cixous’ New Readings 2 (1996), pp. 21-36

‘Greek Mythology in the Theatre of Cixous and Tsvetaeva’ Women Teaching French Papers 2, (1993), pp. 64-78.