Dr Helena Taylor

Research interests

My research focuses on early modern French literature and culture, especially of the seventeenth century: I'm interested in classical reception; literary and cultural quarrels; book history; translation; and women's cultural production and its reception.

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. 

I am developing two related research projects: the first is a book analysing 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) and my corpus includes female translators and imitators of ancient texts as well as fictional accounts of the ancient world by women. I am particularly interested in how classical knowledge was used to legitimise and fashion authorial identities; what it meant to be 'savante'; and the relationship between how women used antiquity and their positions - both assumed and attributed - in the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns. In May 2018, I embarked on a 3-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Exeter to pursue this research project. 

The second area of interest is women's engagements with the literary querelles that shaped seventeenth-century France; I am interested in women's interventions in quarrels, the challenge polemical writing posed for women, and how the female quarreller was received. I organised a panel at the MLA 2019 in Chicago and a conference at Exeter in March 2019 on this theme. 


Research collaborations

With colleagues in History and English, I co-organise the seminars for Exeter's interdisciplinary Centre for Early Modern Studies.

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.