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Dr Benjamin Dalton

Lecturer in French Studies

Benjamin Dalton

Confucious Institute



Office Hours:

Mondays 11-12 and Fridays 12-1 (B179 County Main)

Research overview

My research explores dialogues between French Studies and the Medical Humanities. In particular, I look at how contemporary French philosophy and cultural production approach innovations in biomedical science, and how biomedical science also inspires innovations within philosophy and cultural production. I have published on the philosophy of Catherine Malabou, whose interdisciplinary between philosophy and (neuro)science explores how living beings are "plastic" and transform throughout life. My new research looks at representations of the hospital in contemporary French philosophy. 

PhD supervision

I welcome PhD proposals relating to any of the following broad topics: - Contemporary French literature, film, visual art, and cultural production more broadly - 20th and 21st-century French and continental philosophy - The philosophy of Catherine Malabou - Medical and Health Humanities - Interdisciplinary dialogues between philosophy, art, science, and medicine - Gender and Sexuality Studies - Queer Studies and queer theory Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you want to discuss your proposal or any of the above.

Research Interests

My research is broadly situated between French Studies and the Medical Humanities. In particular, I am interested in how contemporary French philosophy and cultural production are currently dialoguing with biomedical science. I want to explore how engagements with science and medicine across French philosophy, literature and visual art can help us respond to diverse problems currently facing public healthcare and transform the ways we think about therapy and care.


I am currently working on two research projects. My first project explores the work of the contemporary French philosopher Catherine Malabou, who writes at the intersections of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and the neurosciences. Malabou’s central concept of ‘plasticity’ describes how organic lifeforms change and transform throughout life, as can be seen for instance in the neuroplasticity of the human brain which adapts and re-models itself constantly. My work brings Malabou’s interdisciplinary philosophy of biological mutability and plasticity into contact with depictions of bodily transformation and metamorphosis in contemporary French literature and film. My publications on Malabou, literature and film include a book chapter on plasticity and representations of queerness in Alain Guiraudie’s cinema (2019); an article on Malabou in relation to literary depictions of metamorphosis in the writer Marie Darrieussecq (Dalhousie French Studies, 2020); an article on representations of microbiological mutability in Malabou and the queer films of Robin Campillo (Modern and Contemporary France, 2022); and an exploration of conceptions of plasticity, form, and formlessness in Malabou and the work of Georges Bataille (MLN, 2022). I have also published an interview with Malabou in Paragraph (2019).


My new project, provisionally titled Transforming the Hospital with Contemporary French Philosophy, argues that contemporary French philosophers are currently engaging with biomedical science in ways which can propose new kinds of healthcare spaces and hospital environments. Bringing together thinkers such as Catherine Malabou, Paul B. Preciado, Jean-Luc Nancy and Isabelle Stengers, I argue that there has been a shift in the relationship between French philosophy and the hospital: whereas Michel Foucault’s influential critique Birth of the Clinic (1963) once characterised a philosophical distrust of the hospital, my new project seeks to analyse how contemporary French philosophers are engaging positively and dynamically with medical science in order to propose new clinical environments for empowering and emancipatory healthcare. I am particularly interested in how philosophy can help propose empowering healthcare environments for LGBTQIA+ patients. I have published preliminary work from this project in my article: ‘The Plastic Clinic: Catherine Malabou’s Architectural Therapeutics’ (Essays in French Literature & Culture, 2021).

Current Teaching

FREN101: Part 1 French Studies (Advanced) 

FREN233: Shaping Contemporary France: Moments and Movements 

DELC218: Thinking Queerness: LGBTQIA+ lives, identities and politics in contemporary thought and cultural production 

DELC320: Full Unit Dissertation 

DELC338: Spirits in the Material World: Cultures and Sciences 

DELC346: Transforming Thinking: From Philosophy to Neuroscience in French and Francophone Thought 

Research Grants

2023: FASS Health Research Hub Funding 2022-23 to support a seed meeting for a new FASS Queer Medical Humanities Network 

2022: Society for French Studies Postdoctoral Prize Fellowship 

2017: King's College London Collaborative Scheme for Early Career Researchers

2015-2018: LAHP-AHRC PhD Studentship  

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