Franco-British literary relations – Peter Auger


I am Peter Auger. I teach early modern literature,
especially poetry, here at Birmingham. My research is about the relationship between
English Literature and other languages and literatures in the 16th and 17th centuries,
particularly French and Scottish cultures. I spent the first ten years or so of my research
career working on the reception in England and Scotland of a single French poet, one
of the most significant poets in early modern Europe called Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas.
Why did I spend so long on a single poet? Well, it took me years of working through
all the primary evidence and working through that editing some texts and that’s then culminated
in a monograph that assesses Du Bartas’ huge impact on English and Scottish literary culture
all the way from James VI and I, who was Du Bartas’s biggest fan and made him almost a
symbol of the links between English, Scottish and French protestant cultures. Going through
canonical writers Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, John Milton, Anne Bradstreet, Lucy Hutchinson,
etc But also showing the links with a wider literary
culture in which both men and women participated. Since then my research has gone in two main
directions. First of all I’m working more on Franco-British literary relations during
the James the VI and I’s reign. I’m thinking particularly in that how we might think beyond
just the one-way French influence on English literature to the broader regional identity.
And secondly I’ve been working with other researchers across Europe and elsewhere on
thinking about how we might better understand the multilingual and transnational nature
of literary culture in Europe at this time. And it’s my hope that as my research is moving
in these two directions the relevance and significance of my research for our contemporary
society and culture becomes ever more apparent, both in thinking about the historical perspective
that I can offer on how English culture is related, connected and separate from continental
European culture and also the relationship between English and Scottish culture and then
secondly I’m also very keen to promote modern language skills within the discipline of English
studies. We have a big problem in this country – not enough people taking languages at the
moment – I hope that I can help make English studies part of the solution rather than part
of the problem on this issue.

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