Lisa Downing - Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality, Director of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Sexuality and Gender in Europe

Leverhulme Prize for work on French sexuality

Professor Lisa Downing has received international recognition for her multidisciplinary research on French discourses of sexuality from the 19th Century to the present day.

The judges said, ‘Professor Downing’s methodology is to read closely across texts from a range of fields and disciplines of literature, film, medicine, criminology, sexology, psychoanalysis and ethical philosophy to produce strikingly nuanced theoretical histories of culturally significant concepts.’

She has been awarded The Philip Leverhulme Prize which is given to outstanding scholars under the age of 36 who have made a substantial contribution to their field of study and whose future contributions are held to be of correspondingly high promise.

They added, ‘Her meticulous historical and textual scholarship, initially focused in 19th Century French literary constructions of necrophilia, has been widely recognised as contributing new insights to the disciplines with which she engages. This is alongside recent work on the ethical dimension of cinema, where she challenges now standard psychoanalytical approaches to the representation of sexuality.’

As the University of Exeter’s Director of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Sexuality and Gender in Europe, Professor Downing is delighted that the intellectual impact of her research has been recognised in this way.  She said, ‘I am heartened by the fact that a Philip Leverhulme Prize has been given to research that deliberately works outside of standard disciplinary frameworks and structures.’

The prize is worth £70,000 which is likely to make a considerable difference to Professor Downing’s research. She said, ‘It will allow me to extend my institutional research leave for two further years, providing a long period of intensive research. This will give me time to complete a book project about the intellectual history of the figure of the murderer. It will also enable me to carry out sustained work on my new project, a genealogy of the “perversion” and “paraphilia” diagnoses in sexology from the European 19th Century to the present day.’

Date: 3 December 2009