Sophie Maddison

Research title: Urban Interconnections: Ecocritical Readings of the City in Works by Émile Zola and Matilde Serao

Research Summary

My research explores Franco-Italian literary connections in urban narratives spanning the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. I recently submitted my PhD thesis, 'Urban Interconnections: Ecocritical Readings of the City in Works by Matilde Serao (1856-1927) and Émile Zola (1840-1902)', and expect to complete my viva in 2023.

My recent research outputs include:

  • An article published in the MLR (see below), in which I examine the entanglement of dirt and truth in Serao's Il ventre di Napoli (1884; 1906) and Émile Zola's L'Assommoir (1877) (October 2022)
  • A work-in-progress paper on slime and ecophobia in Zola's Le Ventre de Paris (1873), given as part of a ‘Dix-Neuf at a Distance’ seminar (October 2022)
  • A paper titled 'Reading Beyond Gender in Zola’s Commercial Crowds: From Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) to L’Argent (1891)', which won the Postgraduate Prize at the annual conference of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes (April 2022)
  • An online talk titled 'Space, Spectacle and Disorientation in the Department Stores of Glasgow and Paris', organised in partnership with the Glasgow City Heritage Trust (December 2021)

In summer 2021, I worked as a part-time Research Assistant on the 'D'Annunzio as World Literature: Multilingualism, Translation, Reception' project (edited volume forthcoming). I am also Postgraduate Rep for the Histories and Subjectivities research cluster based at the University of Glasgow's School of Modern Languages and Cultures.


College of Arts Postgraduate Scholarship, University of Glasgow (2019-22)

Bellahouston Scholarship, University of Glasgow (2017-18)


‘Slime, “l’agonie de l’eau”, and Ecophobia in Le Ventre de Paris (1873)'Zola: Blood, Nation, Nature, ‘Dix-Neuf at a Distance’ seminar organised by the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes, 21 October 2022 (online)

‘Ecocritical Perspectives on the Interconnectedness of Medicine and Religion', part of 'Enviro-Medical Humanities': a panel at Absence, Hybridity: New Directions in French and Francophone Studies, annual conference of the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France, 8-9 September 2022 (online)

'Reading Beyond Gender in Zola’s Commercial Crowds: From Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) to L’Argent (1891)'Seeing Double, annual conference of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes, Queen's University Belfast, 7-9 April 2022. This paper won the Postgraduate Prize

'Crossing the Boundaries of Naples: Wandering Women and Female Subjectivity, From Matilde Serao to Elena Ferrante', Urban (Im)mobilities and Borderland Narratives, FRINGE / ALUS International Symposium, 14-15 October 2021 (online)

'Disembowelling the City: Naples, Paris and Nineteenth-Century Narratives of the Urban Stomach', Cities, Crisis and Change, Urban History Group Conference, 9-11 June 2021 (online)

Organisation of Regeneration, 6th Annual Postgraduate Conference in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, University of Glasgow, 14 May 2021 (online)

‘Ontological Fluidity in Zola and Serao: New Materialist Approaches to the Fragmented Subjectivities of the Nineteenth Century’, Fluidity, University of Glasgow, 13 May 2020 (online)

‘Symphonic Interconnections : The Emotional Pull of the Material Environment in Le Ventre de Paris and Il paese di Cuccagna, Dire et chanter les passions : les voix de l’émotion, Université d’Angers, 18-19 October 2019

‘From Physical Intermingling to Energetic Entanglement: The Body-Building Dynamic in Zola’s Paris’, The Body and the Built Environment in the Long Nineteenth Century, Durham University, 25 June 2019