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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Professor David Cowling, MA, DPhil Oxon

Pro Vice Chancellor (Arts and Humanities) in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42900
Room number: ER 245
Professor / PVC Arts & Humanities in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 43421

Contact Professor David Cowling

Research Interests

Having completed my undergraduate and doctoral studies at Magdalen College, Oxford, and having spent ten years as Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and (latterly) Reader in French at the University of Exeter, I moved to Durham in 2003 to take up the Chair in French vacated by the late Ann Moss. I am interested primarily in the application of elements of cognitive metaphor theory, as developed by George Lakoff and others, to the analysis of late medieval and early modern French texts, with particular reference to political and polemical discourse. Having published in the first instance on metaphors of the building in French allegorical texts, I have more recently turned my attention to metaphors of economic exchange in the polemical works that were motivated by the debate on linguistic borrowing from Italian into French in the later 16th century, focusing primarily on the vernacular writings of Henri Estienne. I also retain an interest in the reception of classical writers in Renaissance France, with particular reference to the works of Quintus Ennius.

I am a member of the Durham Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (whose taught MA programme I directed between 2006 and 2008), and the Durham Centre for Classical Reception. I co-directed a series of interdisciplinary research dialogues on the theme of Metaphors as Models for the Durham Institute of Advanced Study in 2008, and have more recently run, in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Groningen and Copenhagen, a series of interdisciplinary colloquia on the topic ‘Authority and Persuasion: the Role of Commonplaces in Western Europe (c.1500-c.1800)’.

I served as Head of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures from 2004 to 2005, and from 2008 to 2011. I served as director of Durham's Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies between 2011 and 2013 and took up the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Arts and Humanities) on 1 January 2014. In this latter role, I have executive responsibility for the University Library and Special Collections.

Research Supervision

I am happy to supervise research students working in the following areas:

Late medieval French poetry and historiography

Sixteenth-century French studies

French historical linguistics of the early modern period

Research Groups

School of Modern Languages and Cultures

  • Translation/Linguistics/Pedagogy

Selected Publications

Authored book

  • Cowling, David. (Forthcoming). Henri Estienne and the Politics of Linguistic Borrowing in Sixteenth-Century France.
  • Minet-Mahy, Virginie. & Cowling, David. (2009). L’Automne des images: pragmatique de la langue figurée chez George Chastelain, François Villon et Maurice Scève. Paris: Champion.
  • Cowling, David. (1998). Building the Text: Architecture as Metaphor in Late Medieval and Early Modern France. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Edited book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Europe: Language, literature & culture: Language and national identity in France
  • Europe: Language, literature & culture: History of the French language
  • Europe: Language, literature & culture: 15th- and 16th-century French literature and culture