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Dr Daisy Sainsbury

Laming Fellow


Originally from Scotland, I came to Oxford in 2008 to study for a BA in French and Linguistics at Merton College. I then completed an MSt in French literature, also at Merton, and a DPhil on contemporary French poetry at Lady Margaret Hall. I was elected Laming Fellow at Queen’s in October 2016, and have subsequently been spending my time between Oxford and Paris. 


I have taught a range of topics and authors from across the modern period, from Baudelaire and Mallarmé, to Camus, Perec and Darrieussecq. My main research interest is in modern poetry, which I have taught within the framework of the special authors paper (Paper XI), the modern period paper (Paper VIII), and the special subject paper on ‘French poetry from Surrealism to the present’ (Paper XII). Alongside teaching literature, I have given seminars on French Thought and classes on French-English translation.


My doctoral thesis, ‘“Pour une poésie mineure”: linguistic experimentation in the work of Dominique Fourcade, Olivier Cadiot and Christophe Tarkos’, presents a study of experimental French poetry today, drawing on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s theory of ‘minor literature’ as a theoretical framework. The thesis argues that the centrality of linguistic experimentation in contemporary poetry, where dominant or ‘major’ discourses are disrupted and destabilised through various literary techniques, renders it a primary example of Deleuzo-Guattarian minor literature. Pursuing Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis of the socio-political place of literature, the thesis develops the idea of a ‘minor poetics’, that is, a form of poetry that is political in its subversive use of language. Exploring various definitions of poetic language or ‘the poetic’, and taking into account the sheer variety of contemporary practice, I ask whether this subversive or ‘minor’ use of language might be one of the unifying characteristics of experimental poetry today. I am currently revising my thesis into a monograph, entitled Contemporary French Poetry: Towards a Minor Poetics.  

This year I began work on a post-doctoral project, provisionally entitled ‘Other People’s Language in Modern French Poetry’. Where poetry has traditionally been associated with interiority, subjectivity, and the expression of the self, in modern French poetry other people’s language plays a primary role, in the thematic concerns of the poem, in its formal properties, and in its compositional techniques. My project traces a transition in focus, from the language of the self, to the language of the other, that manifests itself in various ways across the 20th and 21st centuries: from the repurposing of pre- existing texts into ‘ready-made’ poems, to poetry that assembles fragments of overheard conversations, and ‘livres de deuil’ that engage with the language of a deceased loved-one. Whether parodying or plagiarising, speaking on behalf of or documenting without comment, the concern for other people’s language in modern French poetry highlights various political and ethical questions involved in appropriating or attending to someone else’s language, and prompts a re-examination of the socio-political role of poetry, which has long been under scrutiny.



‘Constraints, Concealment and Buried Texts: Reading Walter Abish with Georges Perec and the Oulipo’, Comparative Literature, Vol. 69, No. 3 (2017), pp. 303-14.

‘Refiguring Baudelaire’s “poète-chiffonnier” in contemporary French poetry’, French Cultural Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3 (2017), pp. 303-13.