French 'Extremists'

Submitting Institution

University of London Institute in Paris

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies, Other Language, Communication and Culture
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Professor Andrew Hussey's research focuses on extremist tendencies in French 20th-Century Literature, from Céline, Bataille, Houellebecq to the Situationists, the Lettrists, and their interrelation with Anglo-American Counter-Cultures. As an essayist, broadcaster and public speaker, Hussey communicates this research far beyond academic audiences to reach a general public through his engagement with French culture and its relation to the English-speaking world. His work has led to debate about the contemporary significance of French language and culture in the 21st century. A significant dimension to such impact has been its influence on the broadcast and print media, as evidenced in the range of broadcast, internet and print media where this research has been disseminated.

Other members of staff have also been involved in this activity — most notably Dr Anna-Louise Milne whose research focuses on the French avant-gardes and expatriate writing in Paris. Milne has been involved in disseminating her research in the French broadcast media and schools in the Paris region.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research is Hussey's body of work on the interrelations between extremist tendencies in French Thought and Literature and Anglo-American Counter-Cultures, which he conducted at the University of Aberystwyth (2000-2006) and as Dean of ULIP (2006 - present). His research is particularly focused on uncovering hitherto unknown or unacknowledged links between French and Anglo-European varieties of subversion, radicalism and avant-gardism.

Hussey has published two books on these relationships and is currently writing a third. The first book, The Game of War. The Life and Death of Guy Debord was published in 2001. In the form of documentation and oral histories it offered a new and significant assessment of the close relationship between the Situationists, the Beat Generation, William Burroughs and the punk movement of the 1970s. With new input from Will Self and Iain Sinclair, this book will be published in French in 2014.

The second book, Paris — the Secret History was published in 2006. It was partially supported by a British Academy Grant of £5000. It offered a reading of Parisian traditions of subversion and dissent.

During the period 2008-2013 Hussey published 3 peer-reviewed articles/chapters on the interrelations between French avant-gardist groups and Anglo-European avant-gardism. These are: `Mapping Utopia: Debord and Constant between Amsterdam and Paris' in Paris-Amsterdam Underground, essays on Cultural Resistance, Subversion and Diversion, ed. Christoph Lindner and Andrew Hussey, University of Amsterdam Press, University of Chicago Press, 2012, pp.37-49.

This book also included a contribution from ULIP Senior Lecturer Anna-Louise Milne, `Visibly Underground: When Clandestine Workers Take the Law into their Own Hands' in Paris-Amsterdam Underground: Essays on Cultural Resistance, Subversion, and Diversion.

`Paris is about the last place...', William Burroughs in and out of Paris and Tangier,' in Naked Lunch at 50, eds. Oliver Harris and Ian Macfadyen, Southern Illinois University Press, 2009, pp. 73-84.

`Forbidden Territory, Juan Goytisolo's Maps of Tangier', in Writing Tangier, eds. Ralph M. Coury and R. Kevin Lacey, Currents in Comparative Romance Languages and Literatures, Peter Lang, 2009, pp.35-47.

Anna-Louise Milne is the co-editor, with Julian Jackson and James Williams, of May 68: Rethinking France's Last Revolution (2011), the proceeds of a conference held at ULIP in June 2006. Milne has been active in disseminating this research in schools in Northern Paris, culminating in a series of broadcasts on France-Culture. (See

In 2009 ULIP hosted an international conference, Naked Lunch at 50 which brought together writers, film-makers and musicians to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of Burroughs' Naked Lunch in Paris and Burroughs relations with Parisian radical movements. This event has since been made into a film and disseminated as a website. See the website for worldwide showings of the film <>.

Hussey has published numerous influential essays on his research during the period. Since 2008 he has published fifteen essays in The Guardian, The Observer, The Financial Times and the New Statesman investigating the link between intellectual violence and real violence in French culture and the relationship between a specific writer and his or her landscape. He has recently been invited by the French and British governments as an observer into the French prison system as part of this research.

References to the research

(i) Authored books and articles:
The Game of War: The Life and Death of Guy Debord (Cape, 2001)
Paris, The Secret History (Viking Penguin, 2006)

- `Like a pack of Bastard Dogs', Agitators, Rebels and the Revolutionary Mentality in Paris, Parallax 37, 2006, pp. 23-31

- `Paris is about the last place'. William Burroughs in and out of Paris and Tangier 1958-60 In Naked Lunch at 50, eds Oliver Harris and Ian Macfadyen, Southern Illinois Press, pp.73-84

(ii) Essays:
`The Paris Intifada', Granta 101, 2008, pp. 41-61, reprinted in Granta en Espanol, `Cosas de Hombres', 2009, pp. 183-203 and The New Granta Book of Travel, with an introduction by Jonathan Raban, 2011, pp. 377-395

Details of the impact

Hussey's research into the interrelations between French literature of `Extremism' and Anglo-American culture has been disseminated through books, newspapers, radio and magazines, leading to enhanced public awareness of and engagement with issues of historical and political context. Throughout his academic career, Hussey has been committed to communicating his work beyond an academic audience, not just in the UK but internationally.

During the period, Hussey has given 48 invited lectures to non-academic audiences. These include the Cheltenham Literary Festival, The South Bank, The ICA, Free University of Berlin, and The British Council Algeria. His books appear on university syllabuses across the world, not only in Departments of French but also history, urbanism, and cultural studies. In 2011 Hussey was awarded an OBE for `Services to Anglo-French Cultural Relations'.

The reach of Hussey's research`s impact is evidenced by sales figures: c.25,000 copies of his Game of War (2001) in the UK; c.500,000 copies of Paris — The Secret History (2006) worldwide. The Game of War was also chosen by Kevin Jackson as book of the week on Radio 4's Open Book (October 10, 2001). Paris — The Secret History was well reviewed in Le Monde 21.4.07 and L'Humanité 21.11.07 and Jacques Munier's Book of the Week on France-Culture 4.10.07. It was shortlisted for the Prix Grandgousier 2007. The impact of Hussey's research goes far beyond the area of traditional French Studies to readers from a wide range of backgrounds. As the sales figures indicate, the range is much broader than academic.

Hussey has written and presented a series of BBC Radio 4 documentaries based on this research. They are:

Liberty, Fraternity, Anarchy (Broadcast April 14 2011), about the links between French avant-gardists and the British punk movement. This was praised in the press (The Observer, 6 March 2011).

The Beat Hotel (Broadcast May 20th, 2012) — a documentary on the history of the so-called `Beat Hotel' in Paris;

The Art of Heroin (2013) — a documentary on the influence of heroin on the Situationists and the Beat Generation.

The BBC estimates an audience of c.1.5 million for each of these programmes.

The significance of Hussey's impact is witnessed by public recognition of his work. The 2001 book Game of War was named as `International Book of the Year' in the TLS by Julian Barnes. Paris — The Secret History has now been translated into 12 languages. The French version was shortlisted for the Prix Grandgousier (2008), well reviewed in Le Monde, L'Humanité and made Jacques Munier's book of the week on France-Culture. Two BBC4 90-minute documentaries, Treasures of the Louvre (2013) and France on a Plate (2009), written and presented by Hussey, were directly influenced by work in this book. Both films were well reviewed and France on a Plate has been used as teaching material in Sheffield schools.

Sources to corroborate the impact

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