The University of Southampton
Modern LanguagesPart of Humanities
(023) 8059 3408

Professor Mary Orr PhD, MA

Professor of French.

Professor Mary Orr's photo
Related links

Professor Mary Orr is a Professor of French in Modern Languages at the University of Southampton.

Mary Orr is Director of the Institute of Language and Culture and Director of Research for Modern Languages. A snapshot of her current research projects in nineteenth-century French/European studies, and as Principal Investigator on a joint Data Enrichment Project with the Ordnance Survey, highlights her interests in how Modern Languages research constantly remaps cultural and scientific terrains. This work emerged variously from her two-year Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2010-2012) to work on ‘A Remarkable Woman In Science: Sarah Bowdich Lee, 1791-1856'. This research was further enhanced by a Distinguished Academic Visitorship at Queens' College Cambridge (during Michaelmas Term, 2010), a Short Stay Academic Visitorship (August-September 2011) at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of  Western Australia and a Visiting Fellowship at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London (Jan.-March 2012).

Mary Orr has always been interested in the intersections and cross-pollination of European literary-cultural heritages. She began her career in Modern Languages at St Andrews (MA in French and German) followed by a PhD in French at Cambridge (Queens’ College) on intertextuality in the works of the 1985 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Claude Simon. She then held various temporary lectureship posts (at the University of Wales, Swansea, Christ Church, Oxford and Queens’ College Cambridge) before being appointed to a permanent lectureship at St Andrews. She then moved to a Readership at the University of Exeter, where she was promoted to a Personal Chair in Modern French Studies in 1999. Appointed Professor of French at Southampton in 2005, she brings considerable experience of French Studies UK through her research, and research-led teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, PhD student supervision and service on national committees, including SCASS (The Standing Conference of the Arts and Social Sciences), AUPHF (The Association of University Professors and Heads of French) and SFS (the Society for French Studies). Mary has been a member of the AHRC Peer Review College since 2007 and has served on the Languages and Literatures Subject Panel.

Mary also has a wealth of Editorship experience. She is Editorial Consultant of Forum for Modern Language Studies, serves on the advisory boards of Dix-Neuf and e-france and is a member of the Peer Review Committee of the Publications Series of the Institute of Modern Language Research (IMLR, School of Advanced Study, University of London). Under her Editorship of French Studies Bulletin (2010-2013) Mary launched the Postgraduate Bulletin Board sections to promote the work of next-generation researchers in UK and Ireland French Studies. Outside the national context, Mary is the UK member of the Centre Flaubert, ITEM, Paris, and an international Peer Reviewer for the NWO (Netherlands) and ANR (France).

Since joining the University of Southampton in 2005, Mary has been Director of Research for the School of Modern Languages (2005-6, 2008-9) and Head of French (2006, 2010). She has also served as Director of Postgraduate Research for the (then) School of Humanities (2007-9).

The Leverhulme Trust





Research interests

Mary’s research interests in ‘intertextuality’ – its theories, debates, practices, contexts and 21st-century heritages – are centred in French and European literary-cultural studies from the nineteenth century to the present. The majority of her research publications concentrate on prose forms -- the experimental novel; short fiction; travel and scientific writing – covering canonical exponents such as Flaubert and Claude Simon, metropolitan French contemporary women’s writing and, latterly, the fascinating intertextuality of early and mid-nineteenth-century French science and dissemination of scientific ideas in national, cross-Channel and international contexts through literary and artistic representations. Her three most recent monographs reflect the interdisciplinary nature of her work in French studies. She is currently preparing the first monograph study of Sarah Bowdich (Lee), 1791-1856.

Current research projects

Ahead of REF2014 Mary's research and publications have concentrated on literary-scientific topics, focalized in her monograph, Flaubert's Tentation: Remapping Nineteenth-Century French Histories of Religion and Science (OUP, 2008). She has also published essays on previously un-researched scientific intertexts in Flaubert's Tentation de saint Antoine; on the impacts of the Cuvier salon; on scientists at the Musée d'histoire naturelle de Rouen; on geological poetry, and on early nineteenth-century French and British women in science in a period when none were thought to exist. The Leverhulme Research Fellowship project, ‘A Remarkable Woman In Science: Sarah Bowdich Lee, 1791-1856' crystallised these interests, but has also developed Mary's research expertise on the popularisation of natural science in various forms, including juvenile literatures of science. Her most recent publications -- on nineteenth-century ichthyology, imperial and colonial developments of scientific endeavour, the geology of Madeira – firmly underscore the importance of modern languages research for understanding the dissemination and representations of new scientific ideas.


  • ‘Alexander von Humboldt’s Cosmos and Flaubert’s Tentation de saint Antoine: crossing frontiers in literary science’ in Patterns of Knowledge: essays in honour of Martina Lauster eds. Ricarda Schmitt and Gert von Hoff (Münster: MV Wissenschaft, 2010)
  • ‘Cultural Memory in Question: Flaubert’s La Légende de Saint Julien l’Hospitalier and the genres of Collective Memory’ in Memory in and of the Nineteenth Century, eds. Susan Harrow and Adam Watts (2011)
  • Flaubert: 21st-century Perspectives, eds. Mary Orr, Anne Green and Timothy Unwin. Special Number of Dix-Neuf (Spring 2011)



Book Section(s)

Mary Orr's undergraduate teaching focuses on French literature and culture from the nineteenth century to the present. Her courses enable students better to understand big pictures (multiple contexts, parallel histories, generic developments) and important details (close reading, cross-reference, intertextuality, intermediality). She also convenes the Final Year Dissertation module, which takes up her particular interests in developing students' competence in comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to research, whether for the workplace or for further study. At Southampton, Mary regularly convenes and teaches Research and Dissertation Skills modules at MA level (for the MA in Transnational Studies in Modern Languages; cross-disciplinary sessions for Faculty of Humanities MAs). 

Teaching innovations

Research on the France of Flaubert – his works, his cultural contexts – and how to communicate it has been a constant source of inspiration for Mary’s publications and innovations in teaching.
She joined the Radio 4 'In our time' programme with Melvyn Bragg to discuss the Trial of Madame Bovary on 12th July 2007.

With the financial support of a University of Southampton LATEU Learning and Teaching Enhancement Fund Award in 2008, Mary developed a visualisation tool with Dr Mark Weal in Electronic and Computer Science at Southampton for use in her ‘Flaubert’s France’ course, and her other nineteenth-century teaching. Students at Southampton taking Mary’s ‘Flaubert’s France’ course can now sample a Flaubert text that is only rarely taught in the UK, la Tentation de saint Antoine. See the visualization tool
In 2009, Mary was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Award.

Postgraduate supervision

Mary warmly welcomes contacts from prospective PhD students wishing to discuss supervision of projects in any of her many fields of research expertise and proven research supervision: modern French prose fiction (the novel, the short story, juvenile and scientific travel writing), intertextuality, women’s writing, gender and science, the interfaces of nineteenth-century culture and science in French, cross-Channel or European contexts.

Current postgraduate supervision

Mary is currently supervising 2 full-time PhDs: on nineteenth-century French women’s sentimental writing; on the importance of provenance in the digital age.
Recently completed postgraduate supervision
Mary has successfully supervised to completion 11 PhDs in Nineteenth-Century and Modern French Studies, Comparative Literature, French Feminism and French Women’s Writing and Transnational studies research areas (5 AHRC funded). Of these PhD students, several are now young academics in UK French Studies, English and Gender Studies and Modern Drama.

Professor Mary Orr
Building 65 Faculty of Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/3057

Telephone: (023) 8059 3408

Share this profileFacebookGoogle+TwitterWeibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.