Assoc Prof Síofra Pierse

Associate Professor in French

Síofra is Associate Professor in French and Francophone Studies in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at UCD Dublin. Her research interests lie within 18th-century French literature and history of ideas, with particular focus on Voltaire’s historiography and the literature/doubt interface. She also writes on 18th-century women authors. She lectures in language and literature at undergraduate and MA levels, and currently supervises two PhD students.

Síofra’s modules

FR20050 Introduction à l’âge des Lumières (18e siècle)

This module proposes a discovery of the Enlightenment of eighteenth-century France through its literature. Three texts will be chosen for scrutiny from amongst key thinkers and writers of the century. Authors studied in the past include Rousseau, Graffigny, Riccoboni, Voltaire, and Diderot. Each writer brings a different vision of life and progress to the text, but all try to make sense of life and the complex world in which they live, against an exciting historical backdrop. The Enlightenment outlook on the world is one of constant questioning and challenging of the status quo. As an ensemble, the three works studied will offer an insight into a key historical moment where the individual is goaded into thought, reaction and responsibility in life, with a few inevitable mishaps along the way.

FR30280 Diderot: Creative Iconoclast

Denis Diderot (1713-84), a key inventive figure behind the vast French Enlightenment project ‘L’Encyclopedie’, was one of the most radical and original writers of 18th-century France. However, this philosophe’s ground-breaking works -mainly published posthumously- were composed in a unique pre-revolutionary literary climate when censorship prevailed, silencing innovative, offensive and subversive writings. Typically, his texts play with ideas, voice, satire, narrative, actors/spectators, art, music, and the reader; they challenge contemporary norms of genre and register; they fuse narrative and philosophical ideas; they stretch the rules of aesthetics and morals. In this module, students engage in close reading and literary analysis of a number of Diderot’s key prose texts across different genres (e.g. novel/ satire/ philosophical dialogue/ short story), while situating theym within the challenging contemporary Enlightenment and pre-revolutionary literary world.

Teaching and Learning

Brightspace Audio Feedback: Student Engagement Success

Experiment to trial giving AUDIO feedback to students for two online short essay submissions instead of usual extensive typed feedback stapled to their corrected work.

Online Publications

Pour encourager les autres’: Admiral Byng, Voltaire, and the 1756 battle of Minorca

Published on the blog of the Voltaire Foundation on 20th May 2020

No Way Out

Published on Dublin Review of Books on 11th September 2018.


Oxford Enlightenment Workshop: Discussion of Voltaire’s Précis du siècle de Louis XV

Síofra Pierse gave at talk at this workshop via zoom on Monday 8 March 2021, chaired by Prof. Nicholas Cronk (Oxford), and along with Prof. Colin Davis (Queen Mary, London), Assoc. Prof. James Hanrahan (Trinity College Dublin) and Dr Janet Godden (Voltaire Foundation, Oxford).

PhD Supervision

Emma Dunne

PhD candidate in French

Lucille Raynal

PhD candidate in French

Edward O’Sullivan

PhD, Graduated in 2019

Síofra on Twitter