Dr Thomas Baldwin

Reader in French


Dr Thomas Baldwin studied for a BA in French and German at University College London and for a DPhil in French at New College, Oxford. Before coming to Kent, he was a maître de langue at the École normale supérieure in Paris.

He is co-director of the Centre for Modern European Literature and a general editor of Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature.

Research interests

Tom's research interests lie in the fields of modern French literature, literary theory, philosophy and visual culture. 

He would be happy to supervise postgraduate work in any of these areas.  


Tom teaches modules on modern French literature and culture. He also teaches grammar and translation.



  • Baldwin, T. (2015). Rewriting Proust. Esprit Createur [Online] 55:70-85. Available at: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1353/esp.2015.0045.
  • Baldwin, T., O'Meara, L. and Haustein, K. (2015). Introduction. Guest-edited special issue of L'Esprit Créateur [Online] 55:1-6. Available at: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1353/esp.2015.0048.
  • Baldwin, T. (2015). On Garréta on Proust. French Studies [Online] 70:33-43. Available at: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1093/fs/knv227.
    This article explores Anne F. Garréta's engagements with Marcel Proust's 'À la recherche du temps perdu' in 'La Décomposition' (1999). I argue that Garréta's various ‘rewritings’ of Proust's novel supply a new image of the productive tensions between literary works and critical or novelistic approaches to them and simultaneously resist a tendency to reproduce and consume Proust's work as a cultural fetish. In examining Garréta's creation of a series of interfaces with passages in 'À la recherche', I suggest that some readers of 'La Décomposition' encounter a ‘virtual’ text that shares some of the features of both authors' novels but is identical to neither. I also consider the ways in which Roland Barthes's understanding of Proust and of Proust criticism more generally can help us to appreciate the significance of what Garréta has done.
  • Baldwin, T. (2014). Charlus/z. Nottingham French Studies (Special Issue: Writing, Reading, Grieving: Essays in Memory of Suzanne Dow) [Online] 53:90-101. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/nfs.2014.0075.
    In Marcel Proust's Sodome et Gomorrhe, the Baron de Charlus lists Honoré de Balzac's ‘Sarrazine’ (sic) among his favourite works by the author. Through a comparison of Roland Barthes's reading of Balzac's novella in S/Z (1970) and his seminar in 1977 at the Collège de France on what he calls the ‘Discours-Charlus’ (which refers to a weird verbal confrontation between Charlus and Marcel in Le Côté de Guermantes), this article explores what Proust's orthographical slip tells us about his unpredictable Baron. It also considers the extent to which Barthes's reading of Charlus's discourse marks a significant reassessment of the limits of structural analysis.
  • Baldwin, T. (2012). On Barthes on Proust. Forum for Modern Language Studies [Online] 48:274-287. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/fmls/cqs013.
    For many, Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu represents the nec plus ultra of aesthetic power and complexity, embodying a vast range of analytical, compositional and expressive techniques. This article explores the ways that Proust's work is seen (and used) in a selection of essays by Roland Barthes. As Malcolm Bowie has observed, in spite of – or indeed because of – his multiform admiration for A la recherche, Barthes refused to be labelled as a ‘proustien’. He produced very few sustained, stand-alone textual analyses of Proust's novel. Although it may be tempting for some to view such critical reticence as symptomatic of an anxiety of influence, this article suggests that it is less the sign of hindrance or compunction within Barthes's critical practice than an indication of the ways in which Barthes understands the nature of ‘critique’ itself.
  • Baldwin, T. (2011). The Thickness of Art: Paintings and Photographs in Proust’s Recherche. Modern Language Review 106:86-98.
    The aim of this article is to show that Proust's 'celebre jet d'eau d'Hubert Robert' is a strange hybrid: it is a three-dimensional object in a garden, a painting, and a photograph. Moreover, the referential convolutions of Proust's fountain narrative are compounded at its points of contact with the work of other writers, most notably Diderot. Proust's narrative also anticipates key developments in twentieth-century aesthetics, particularly with regard to mechanical reproduction. The article examines the 'definitive' version of Proust's description, a number of early (manuscript) versions, and other passages in A la recherche du temps perdu in which Robert's name occurs.
  • Baldwin, T. (2010). Proust et les jets d’eau d’Hubert Robert. Cahiers de l’AIEF 62:223-239.
  • Baldwin, T. (2010). Proust and Zola: Name that Picture. Forum for Modern Language Studies [Online] 46:29-42. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/fmls/cqp119.
    Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu and Zola's L'œuvre appear in their different ways to be hung with paintings. There are commentators who are keen to spot them. The implication is that we may leap outside the text to find a “real” painting that might complete the “truth” of the fiction. In this article, my aim is to show that these texts contain certain descriptions which both provoke and frustrate the art-spotter's efforts. While the reader is powerfully induced into thinking that there are painters and paintings to be found, these things are in fact internal to the texts themselves. If our reading will not accept that they must remain there, then we are liable to ignore some of the effects that these texts create, important among which is their power to produce a desire for an external referent in the reader. While the passages I examine are different in terms of the objects they set out to describe, one being a description of a view through a window that may resemble a picture (Proust), another that of a fountain in a park (Proust), and a third that of a picture painted by a fictional artist (Zola), the effects they create are similar: both writers use proper names in ways that entice the reader from the territory of the novel into some extra-fictional place that is assuredly part of the territory of the world. Moreover, while Zola does not use the names of recognised artists directly, such names often come to mind as we read his descriptions of Claude Lantier's paintings. Proust does supply well-known artists' names, but also produces descriptions that compel us to recognise the referential opacity – we could call it incompleteness – of extra-fictional names in fictive utterances. In both cases, whether it is on the tip of the tongue or fully inscribed within the text, the name offers for a moment the prospect that we might reach a place outside the textual limit of the fiction only to disturb our attempt to remain there comfortably.
  • Baldwin, T. (2007). Jacques Bouveresse: Being UnFrench, Metaphorically. French Cultural Studies [Online] 18:322-334. Available at: http://frc.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/18/3/321.
  • Baldwin, T. (2005). Proust, a Fountain and Some Pink Marble. French Studies 59/4:481-493.
    This article explores the extraordinary volatility in the literary materials out of which the object world of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu is formed. It provides new insight into the transformatory effect that connects Proust’s quasi-ekphrastic descriptions of objects and his description of the ‘matière’ of his work. It is unique in its analysis of a passage in which an object that enters the world of the text as a 'real' fountain, mimetically described, is transformed into a fountain depicted in a painting that the text describes ekphrastically. It also provides fresh insight into the manner in which Proust, having filled the novel with descriptions of depicted and actual things, menaces the reader with the possibility that the virtual world is about to vanish, that the novel is a piece of marble or flesh, pink, compact and transparent—a real and tangible object.
  • Baldwin, T. (2004). Deleuze’s Bacon. Radical Philosophy 123:29-40.


  • Baldwin, T. (2011). The Picture as Spectre in Diderot, Proust, and Deleuze. Oxford: Legenda.
    The possibility of ekphrasis — the verbal representation of visual imagery — is fundamental to all writing about art, be it art criticism, theory, or a passage in a novel. But there is no consensus concerning how such representation works. Some take it for granted that writing about art can result in a precise match between words and visual images. For others, ekphrasis amounts to a kind of virtuoso rivalry, in which the writer aims to outdo the pictorial image that is being described. In close readings of Diderot, Proust, and Deleuze, Baldwin shows how ekphrasis can create a ‘spectral’ effect. In other words, ekphrastic ‘spectres’ do not function as fully present ‘stand-ins’ for given works of art; nor can they be reduced to the status of passive or absent others. Baldwin also explores the ways in which the works of Diderot, Proust, and Deleuze inhabit each other as ghostly influences.
  • Baldwin, T. (2005). The Material Object in the Work of Marcel Proust. Oxford: Peter Lang.
    This book is the first to describe the development of Proust’s treatment of material objects from his earliest work Les Plaisirs et les jours to his mature novel A la recherche du temps perdu. It is unique in its exploration of the movement within Proust’s work from unreflective and spontaneous representation to a meta-narrative of consciousness. The latter finds particular resonance in a peculiarly Proustian pictoriality which has been largely unnoticed. By exploring connections between Proust’s pictoriality and his reflections on ‘matter’ and ‘surface’, this book suggests a new and radical approach to the modernism of A la recherche du temps perdu

Book section

  • Baldwin, T. (2018). Roland Barthes, les variations Proust. in: Coste, C. and Douche, S. eds. Barthes et la musique. Presses Universitaires de Rennes, pp. 203-211.
  • Baldwin, T. (2016). Marcel Proust, On and Off. in: James, I. and Wilson, E. eds. Lucidity: Essays in Honour of Alison Finch. Routledge.
  • Baldwin, T. (2015). Félix Guattari's Swann. in: Watt, A. ed. Swann at 100 / Swann à 100 ans. Brill / Rodopi, pp. 35-49. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/9789004302426_005.
  • Baldwin, T. (2013). Philosophy. in: Watt, A. ed. Marcel Proust in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 75-82.
  • Baldwin, T., Fowler, J. and de Medeiros, A. (2013). Preface. in: Baldwin, T., Fowler, J. and de Medeiros, A. eds. Questions of Influence in Modern French Literature. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, p. vii-xvi.
  • Baldwin, T. (2013). Proust's Picture Plane. in: Aubert, N. ed. Proust and the Visual. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, pp. 131-148.
  • Baldwin, T. (2013). Mid-twentieth-century views, 1960s to 1980s. in: Watt, A. ed. Marcel Proust in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 199-205.
  • Baldwin, T. (2012). Grazing with Marcel Proust. in: Schaffner, A. K. and Weller, S. eds. Modernist Eroticisms: European Literature after Sexology. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 63-79. Available at: http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=594803.
  • Baldwin, T. (2012). Photography and Painting in Proust’s 'A la recherche du temps perdu'. in: Baldwin, T., Grigorian, N. and Rigaud-Drayton, M. eds. Text and Image in Modern European Culture. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, pp. 76-87.
  • Baldwin, T. (2010). Ekphrasis and Related Issues in Diderot’s Salons. in: Fowler, J. ed. New Essays on Diderot. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 234-247.
  • Baldwin, T. (2009). "Et tout le reste est littérature": Deleuze, Bacon and "Le Temps retrouvé". in: Watt, A. ed. 'Le Temps retrouvé': 80 ans après. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 267-278.
  • Baldwin, T. (2007). Proust's Eyes. in: Baldwin, T., Fowler, J. and Weller, S. eds. The Flesh in the Text. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 95-108.
  • Weller, S., Baldwin, T. and Fowler, J. (2007). Introduction. in: Baldwin, T., Fowler, J. and Weller, S. eds. The Flesh in the Text. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 9-18.

Edited book

  • Baldwin, T., Fowler, J. and de Medeiros, A. eds. (2013). Questions of Influence in Modern French Literature. [Online]. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Available at: http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/questions-of-influence-in-modern-french-literature-thomas-baldwin/?K=9781137309136.
    What is meant by 'influence' in the realm of literature, art, music or ideas? How is it related to concepts such as pastiche or parody? Self-evidently, our understanding of any 'past' work depends on contemporary methods of reading; but does it makes sense, therefore, to claim that influence can be retroactive? Harold Bloom used the term 'the anxiety of influence' as the title of a famous study, but his is only one of many theorizations that span the modern era. This collection of essays examines a variety of texts written in French from the eighteenth century onwards, together with a number of visual and musical works. (All quotations in other languages are followed by translations in English.) The contributors elucidate, question and/or draw on major theories of influence, in new readings of well-known works. Whilst all engage with French and/or francophone culture, the works examined open cross-disciplinary perspectives.
  • Baldwin, T., Grigorian, N. and Rigaud-Drayton, M. eds. (2012). Text and Image Relations in Modern European Culture: Comparative Perspectives. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.
    Text and Image in Modern European Culture is a collection of essays that are transnational and interdisciplinary in scope. Employing a range of innovative comparative approaches to reassess and undermine traditional boundaries between art forms and national cultures, the contributors shed new light on the relations between literature and the visual arts in Europe after 1850. Following tenets of comparative cultural studies, work presented in this volume explores international creative dialogues between writers and visual artists, ekphrasis in literature, literature and design (fashion, architecture), hybrid texts (visual poetry, surrealist pocket museums, poetic photo-texts), and text and image relations under the impact of modern technologies (avant-garde experiments, digital poetry).

    The discussion encompasses pivotal fin de siècle, modernist, and postmodernist works and movements in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, and Spain. A selected bibliography of work published in the field is also included. The volume will appeal to scholars of comparative literature, art history, and visual studies, and it includes contributions appropriate for supplementary reading in senior undergraduate and graduate seminars.
  • Baldwin, T., Fowler, J. and Weller, S. eds. (2007). The Flesh in the Text. Oxford: Peter Lang.
    The impetus behind this collection of essays was a curiosity shared by the editors concerning the relation between the flesh and the text in French and francophone literature. This curiosity took the form of a number of specific questions. For which writers has the flesh been a central concern? Might one distinguish between those writers who attempt to represent the flesh textually and those who emphasise the difficulty or even the impossibility of such a project? How is the subject’s relation to his/her own flesh, and to the flesh of others, determined? In which ways do psychoanalysis and other influential theoretical approaches such as phenomenology and deconstruction address the flesh as distinct from the body? These questions are explored here in readings of works by, among others, Rabelais, Diderot, Sade, Proust, Beckett, Djebar, Nothomb, Delvig and Nobécourt. The principal philosophers and theorists upon whom the contributors draw include Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Lacan, Foucault, Deleuze, Agamben, Nancy and Anzieu. The essays will be of interest to readers from a wide range of disciplines, including literary studies, philosophy, psychoanalysis, gender studies, aesthetics and religious studies.

Edited journal

  • Baldwin, T., O'Meara, L. and Haustein, K. eds. (2015). What’s So Great About Roland Barthes? Guest-edited special issue of L’Esprit créateur [Online] 55:1-6. Available at: https://espritcreateur.org/issue/what%E2%80%99s-so-great-about-roland-barthes.
    One hundred years after his birth, the work of Roland Barthes (1915–1980) remains compelling in a wide variety of fields and disciplines. The great power of his work resides, perhaps, in its radical plurality. Nevertheless, beneath such variation we find enduring purpose: Barthes is a consistent advocate of the critique of ideology; of the refusal of middlebrow generalization; of the productivity of text; of attention to the critical response of the individual. The overall aim of this issue is to show how we can continue to work with Barthes today.


  • Baldwin, T. Theories of the Novel. in: Watt, A. ed. The Cambridge History of the Novel in French. Cambridge University Press.
  • Baldwin, T. Roland Barthes: The Proust Variations. Liverpool University Press.
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