Photo of Dr Helena Taylor

Dr Helena Taylor

Research interests

My research focuses on early modern French literature and culture, especially of the seventeenth century, with a particular interest in the 'culture war' known as the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns, and its relationship to classical reception in this period.

My book, The Lives of Ovid in Seventeenth-Century French Culture (OUP, 2017),  examines the reception and uses of the life of Ovid in seventeenth-century French writing. I consider the portrayal of Ovid in a wide range of literary genres and explore how writing about the life of this ancient poet was also a way of reading his poetry. Placing such portrayals in the context of changing cultural tastes and values that marked this period, the book suggests that, despite being an ancient poet, Ovid became emblematic of 'Modern', female-oriented movements; and that, although tales from his Metamorphoses adorned Versailles, his story was also used to express anxieties about the relationship between authority and narrative, power and historiography. 

My new project looks at how female authors of early modern France confronted and used the ancient world. I  treat both authors who were literate in ancient languages and those who were not (or who claimed not to be). I am particularly interested in what it meant to be 'savante'; the reputation and cultural legitimacy that classical knowledge afforded a female writer; and the relationship between how women used antiquity and their positions - both assumed and attributed - in the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns. From May 2018, I will be taking up a 3-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Exeter to pursue this research project. 

Research collaborations

I am part of a network exploring early modern notions of 'posterity', which launched at the University of Cambridge in March 2015. I have also been involved in 'Agon', the ANR-funded international research project on quarrels, disputes and controversies in early modern Europe.