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Professor Nicholas Harrison

Professor Nicholas Harrison

Harrison_Nicholas_2017Professor of French and Postcolonial Studies

Tel +44(0)20 7848 1835
Address Department of French
King's College London

Room 4.42 Virginia Woolf Building
22 Kingsway
London WC2B 6LE




As an undergraduate I studied French and German at Cambridge. Before starting graduate work I held year-long English-teaching posts at the University of Tunis and in a school in rural Quebec, which inspired a long-term interest in the francophone world outside France. In 1989 I began a PhD about censorship, first back in Cambridge and then for two years in Paris, including a year working as a lector at the ENS in the rue d’Ulm. I returned to Cambridge in 1992 to take up a Junior Research Fellowship at St Catharine's College, where I began working on francophone literature of the Maghreb. After the fellowship I held a university lectureship in Cambridge. I moved to London in 1998, working first at UCL and then, from 2005, at King’s.

Research interests and PhD supervision
  • Colonial / postcolonial studies
  • Literary and critical theory
  • North Africa, especially its francophone writers
  • Censorship
  • Translation
  • History of education

My research interests are quite diverse, but an important common thread has been the sort of political work that literary texts – and also films – are imagined to do, by censors, teachers, and critics (especially postcolonial critics, who can be quite censorial). Among other things this entails an interest in notions of literary and aesthetic specificity or value, and recently it has led to an interest in translation, and particularly the association of literature with 'untranslatability'. I have worked mainly on writing in French from the Maghreb, including work by Djebar, Dib, Feraoun, Amrouche, Chraïbi, Camus, Derrida, Cixous, Memmi, and Fanon; but I have also written at some length about various other authors, notably Conrad, Said, the Marquis de Sade, the Tel Quel group and the Surrealists, and I have written about films by Truffaut and Pontecorvo. My main research project at the moment concerns colonial education.

I have supervised and am happy to supervise PhD students whose interests connect with any of my interests; previous students' work has been diverse geographically (concerning France, the Maghreb, and other parts of the francophone world), in subject area (French, Comparative Literature, Film), and in topic and approach. 

For more details, please see Nick's full research profile.
Selected publications
  • Circles of Censorship: Censorship and its Metaphors in French History, Literature, and Theory(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)
  • Postcolonial Criticism: History, Theory and the Work of Fiction(Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003)
  • The Idea of the Literary, special issue of Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory, 28.2 (2005). Editor and contributor.Other contributors: Derek Attridge, Alain Badiou, Jean Bessière, Assia Djebar, Simon Jarvis, Benita Parry, Jacques Rancière, Corinna Russell.
  • Gillo Pontecorvo’s ‘Battle of Algiers’, 40 Years On, special issue of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies9.3 (2007). Editor and contributor.Other contributors: Danièle Djamila Amrane-Minne, Patricia Caillé, David Forgacs, Benjamin Stora, Saadi Yacef.
  • ‘« Ce pouvoir me fut aussi funeste que sauveur … » La littérature francophone et l’enseignement colonial’, in L’École aux colonies, les colonies à l’école,ed. Gilles Boyer, Pascal Clerc & Michelle Zancarini-Fournel (Lyon: ENS éditions, 2013), 125-141
  • 'World literature: what gets lost in translation?'. Journal of Commonwealth Literature (June 2014)

For a complete list of publications, please see Nick's full research profile.


North African and other francophone literature; French literature of all periods, especially the modern novel; postcolonial and literary theory; film; the French language (especially translation).

Expertise and public engagement

In connection with my work in postcolonial studies, especially on francophone literature, on the capacities of 'literature' in general, and on education, I have become involved in debates around the French syllabus in secondary schools, and in various 'professional development' activities for teachers wanting to introduce new francophone/postcolonial material into their teaching.

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