UCL seeks new Fielden professor

French department head explains what the faculty is looking for. Plus the latest higher education jobs and appointments

February 6, 2014

Source: Getty

Adaptable: the Fielden post can be tailored to fit the best candidate

The new Fielden professor of French language and literature at University College London will be stepping into a post that dates back to the origins of French studies in England.

When UCL opened in 1828, it immediately took on Pierre François Merlet to teach French. Six years later, he was promoted to professor – almost certainly the first in Britain, although there was already a professor of French at Trinity College Dublin.

Professor Merlet was followed by Charles Cassal, a radical republican exiled after Louis-Napoleon’s coup in 1851, who always took great pride in the fact that he appeared on the list of those exiled straight after Victor Hugo.

It was while Professor Cassal was in post from 1860 to 1885 that Samuel Fielden, a wealthy mill owner from Yorkshire, gave the college some shares worth £4,000 for the promotion of modern languages. While half went on student prizes, the rest was for the endowment of chairs in French and German.

“It was a pioneering chair within the university system in Britain and laid down a marker,” said Roland-François Lack, head of the department of French at UCL.

Early post-holders were in essence language scholars, although they also popularised French culture by giving public lectures on major literary figures. It was only from the time of Louis Brandin (1901-39) that serious study of foreign literature was incorporated into the university system. He was the fourth, and last, of a line of native speakers, and was succeeded by the 35-year-old Brian Woledge (1939-71).

Dr Lack was taught by all the last three Fielden professors, who “established the continuity of teaching and research”.

He recalled Renaissance expert Michael Screech (1971-84) as “someone who communicated perfect erudition in a way students immediately apprehended”, while the first woman, Annette Lavers (1984-98), an authority on Roland Barthes and the francophone Caribbean, was “a wonderful pedagogue who rather dazzled with her erudition and inspired deep love in her students”.

The last Fielden professor, Michael Worton, specialised in contemporary French literature, gender and sexuality, although Dr Lack observes that his skills as a “masterful negotiator and administrator” meant that he combined his academic post with the role of vice-provost. He was also honoured by the French government as a chevalier (and then an officier) dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

The next in line, noted Dr Lack, needed to be both “a cutting-edge scholar and an excellent teacher” (although not necessarily someone seeking to use the post as a stepping stone to a senior administrative role).

Yet he or she could be “a historian, a critical theorist, a specialist in cultural studies, film or art history. The full title of the Fielden chair has already changed over time and could be adapted slightly to the new post-holder.”


Hiring now: jobs in languages and linguistics

University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong is looking for an assistant professor in applied linguistics.
Closing date for applications: 14 March 2014
Click here to view the full job description and to apply for this role

University College Cork
University College Cork has a post for a lectureship in English in its College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences.
Closing date for applications: 4 March 2014
Click here to view the full job description and to apply for this role

University of Manchester
The University of Manchester is looking for a lecturer in translation and interpreting studies.
Click here to view the full job description and to apply for this role


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