Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly

Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly
Résidents Labex RFIEA+
pas Eurias

dates de séjour

01/09/2018 - 31/01/2019


Histoire moderne

Fonction d’origine


Institution d’origine

Université d'Oxford (Royaume-Uni)

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Projecting Imperial Power. New Nineteenth-Century Emperors and the Public Sphere

Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly is Professor of German Literature at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. She taught previously at the University of Reading and was a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin from 2004 to 2005. From 2005 to 2008 she led the AHRC Major Research Project: Representations of Women and Death in German Literature, Art and Media from 1500 to the present (with Sarah Colvin) and from 2013 to 2016 the HERA-funded project: Marrying Cultures. Queens Consort and European Identities 1500-1800. She has published four monographs, two book-length translations and edited or co-edited six other books. In 2012 she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy and in 2016 she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Literature honoris causa by the National University of Ireland.


In 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of the French. This set a process in motion which led to the creation of the Emperors of Austria in the same year, of Brazil and Mexico in 1822, of Mexico again in 1864, of Germany in 1871 and British India in 1876. Within different political and constitutional contexts each emperor had to establish an imperial court, invent an imperial tradition and create imperial spaces, images, rhetoric, ceremonies and festivals. My project asks how these were constituted and projected at a time of the increasing spread and power of the media and of growing democratisation. During the imperial reigns to be investigated significant buildings, images and objects were commissioned, cities were remodelled and the relation of the monarch to the media was altered. My project asks what we can learn from this performance of power and invention of tradition about the coming of modernity, the emotional connection between ruler and ruled, the management of news and the manipulation of the media in the age of mass-circulation newspapers, photography and film. These questions are still highly relevant today.