Juliette Bretan, Newnham

Degree: PhD
Course: 1830-PD
Supervisor: Dr Leo Mellor
Dissertation Title:

Modernism/Polonism: Depictions and distortions of Poland in Anglophone and Polish literature

Biographical Information

I attended a state school in rural Lincolnshire, before reading English for my BA (1st Class) at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge (2016-2019). I then completed a two-year MRes in East European Studies at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (Distinction, and nominated to the Dean's List for academic excellence) at UCL, funded by an MRes Studentship (2019-2021). I am now back in Cambridge at Newnham College for a PhD, funded by a Vice-Chancellor's and Newnham College scholarship.

I have also worked as a freelance journalist over the last few years, covering Polish and Eastern European arts, history and current affairs. I regularly write and present on various topics related to interwar Polish culture - including literature, music, dance (especially tango), migration, trams and trains. My articles have featured in The Public Domain Review, The Sunday Times, The New Statesman’s CityMetric, Notes from Poland, Culture.pl, The Calvert Journal, CultureTrip, New Eastern Europe, and the European Literature Network, among others. In 2018, I contributed to the BBC World Service for a programme about Poland’s Syrena recording company, and was interviewed for the Notes from Poland and History Hack podcasts in 2020. I have also given invited talks at the Polish Heritage Society (2018), the College of Europe in Natolin (2019), and Ognisko Polskie (2019).

Last year, I led one of the 'Social Dance and Collaboration' reading group sessions at the University of Cambridge, exploring tango as it travels across countries and culture, and particularly into Poland. I also worked as a guest producer for a concert at POSK Polish Centre for Polish Heritage Days 2021, about Polish-British cultural connections in the early 20th century. Most recently, I appeared on episode #3 of the 'Stories from the Space Between' podcast, created by The Space Between society, discussing my research into representations of Poland in interwar British literature.

I currently co-organise a reading group, 'Peripheral Modernists in Translation', which explores modernist writing from perceived peripheries of Europe.

I am also co-convenor of the faculty's Graduate Research Forum.

More details on my work and research can be found on my Twitter page (@jcbretan) and on my portfolio.

Research Interests

My current research examines representations of Poland in Anglophone and Polish modernism, as well as cross-cultural collaboration between Britain and Poland in the first half of the 20th century. Authors of particular interest include: Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Eric Ambler, Jean Rhys, T.S. Eliot, Rose Macaulay, Katherine Mansfield, Debora Vogel, Bruno Schulz, Joseph Roth, Jozef Czechowicz, Paul Celan, H.M. Tomlinson, Franz Kafka, Martin Hare, Patrick Hamilton, Geoffrey Household, Rex Warner.

Wider areas of interest include: twentieth-century literature; the modernist short story; European avant-gardes; Central Eastern European modernism; ideas of genre; popular culture; modern music and dance; migration; quotidian objects; little magazines; crime, spy and thriller novels; medical humanities; modernist anthropology; sensory modalities; visual culture; Lincolnshire in fiction.

Areas of Supervision

I am very happy to hear from any students working in my areas of interest. 

Selected Publications




Other recent essays:




Media appearances:


Conferences and lectures:

  • 'Milonga in Mitteleuropa: Prose, form and nationality in Bruno Schulz and Debora Vogel', Faculty of English Postgraduate Lecture Series, University of Cambridge (May 2022)
  • 'Poles through the looking glass: cultural dis/connections in modernist language, image and media', Cultural Trajectories Through Language, Literature and Media, The LNM Institute of Information Technology, Jaipur, online (April 2022)
  • 'Modernist Poles: peripheric, peripatetic, periphrastic, periscopic', Slavonic Studies Graduate Symposium, University of Cambridge (April 2022) - also co-organiser
  • '"As if she were passing unseen": Masks in depictions of Poles and Poland in the early 20th century', (un)Masked - 15th annual EGSA conference, University of Ottawa, online (March 2022)
  • '"I hope he won't talk": Joseph Conrad and Esperanto', New Work in Modernist Studies, online (December 2021)
  • 'Carriages, (dis)comfort, and the Polish counter-state', Graduate Interdisciplinary Network Flash Forum, University of Cambridge (December 2021)
  • '"Suffering in its grave": ghosts, afterlives, Poland', 20th Century and Contemporary Graduate Symposium, University of Cambridge (November 2021)