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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Kathryn Bryan

College: Lucy Cavendish   


Supervisor: Prof Nicholas White

Research Topic: ‘Victime et bourreau’: The Question of Abortion in the Belle Epoque roman à thèse



Kathryn is in the fourth year of her part-time PhD. She completed her undergraduate degree in MML (French and Russian) at Gonville and Caius College in 2014, which she followed with a Masters in Comparative Literature at the University of Nottingham. Her final dissertation focused on depictions of female sexual agency in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891) and Émile Zola's Pot-Bouille (1882). In 2016, she gained a PGCE in secondary languages from the University of Manchester and taught French and Spanish in a grammar school in South Manchester for two years before returning to academia at Cambridge in 2018. Alongside her studies, she teaches French and Spanish at a primary school in Newmarket.



Kathryn's thesis analyses the representation of abortion in French novels from 1904-1907, a period where fears over the ongoing depopulation crisis brought questions of natality and women's fertility to the fore. As an issue which is still polemical to this day, the topic of abortion allows an insight into the changing attitudes towards maternity and women's control over their own bodies in France and within the French feminist movements. Using close textual analysis of five romans à thèse by a range of authors - male and female - who have largely been ignored in recent criticism, this project uncovers how these literary depictions reflected and influenced the medical, legal and ideological debates of the time.


Undergraduate supervision: Fr5 second-year supervisor, supervisor to a Year Abroad Project, supervisor for a fourth-year Fr11 Optional Dissertation.


Conference papers

July 2021

IMLR Contemporary Womxn’s Writing and the Medical Humanities International Online Conference

‘Where was my party when I had an abortion?’: Caitlin Moran and Sara Pascoe Finding the Funny in Abortion


February 2021

IMLR Contemporary Women’s Writing and the Medical Humanities seminar

Seminar 11: Breaking Bodily Taboos

Invisible Chain: The Female Experience of Abortion Across a Century from Jeanne Caruchet’s L’Ensemencée (1904) to Annie Ernaux’s L’événement (2000)


November 2020

Cambridge Seminar Series in 19th Century French Studies

‘Sacrificed Flesh: Abortion in Camille Pert’s L’Autel


March 2020

Institute of Modern Languages Research: Recovering Women’s Identities between Centre and Periphery (16th -20th Centuries)

‘« C’est singulier, n’est-ce pas? » Jeanne Caruchet’s non-maternal woman’