Anna Magdalena Elsner

Anna Magdalena Elsner, MA (Oxon) MPhil, PhD (Cantab)

Swiss National Science Foundation Marie Heim-Vögtlin Fellow



Anna Magdalena Elsner holds a BA in Philosophy and French from St Hilda’s College, Oxford University and a MPhil in European Literature and Culture from Darwin College, Cambridge University. She received her PhD, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2011, also from Cambridge University. Subsequently, she was the Joanna Randall McIver Junior Research Fellow at St Hugh’s College, Oxford University. Before joining the University of Zurich, she worked at King’s College London, first as a Swiss National Science Foundation Prospective Researcher and then as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. Anna was a pensionnaire étranger at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and is a member of the Équipe Proust at the Institut des textes et manuscrits modernes. In 2015, she was a fellow at the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy.

Research Interests

  • Twentieth and Twenty-First Century French Literature and Philosophy
  • Marcel Proust
  • Medical Humanities
  • Palliative Care
  • Documentary Cinema
  • Psychoanalysis

Anna’s research focuses on questions raised by the representation of memory, mourning, trauma and pain in twentieth and twenty-first century French literature and visual culture. Her current research interests are situated within the medical humanities; in her ongoing research project she attempts to provide a deeper understanding of the medical practice, and its historical, social, cultural and ethical implications by analysing the clinical encounter in twentieth-century French literature and film. She is currently working on a new project, funded by an SNF MHV grant, on the culture and philosophy of palliative care in modern and contemporary French literature. She is one of the co-founders of the Swiss Network for Ethics of Care.

Selected Publications:


Mourning and Creativity in Proust (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

Edited Volumes:

Anamnesia: Public and Private Memory in Modern French Culture, ed. by Peter Collier, Anna M. Elsner, Olga Smith (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009)

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles:

Landscapes of care and the enchantment of dying in Edwin Beeler’s Die Weisse Arche (2016), Studies in Documentary Film, 14.2 (2020): 147-160

Beyond Medical Paternalism: Undoing the doctor-patient relationship in Simone de Beauvoir’s Une mort très douce, Literature and Medicine, 37.2 (2019):420-441

‘De jour en jour / From day to day’ – Documenting Times of Self-Mourning in Hervé Guibert’s La Pudeur ou l’impudeur (1990), Film-Philosophy, 20 (2016), 250-264

‘Pain, Painlessness and Resurrection in Malraux’s Lazare’, L’Ésprit Créateur, 56.2 (2016), 25–37

‘“Penser commence peut-être là” – Proust and Derrida on animals, ethics and mortality’, 111 (2016), Modern Languages Review, 375-391

‘‘Un état nerveux dont je n’étais pas responsable’: Medical and Moral Language in the drame du coucher, 12 (2015), Marcel Proust Aujourd’hui, 76-90

'Premières lectures européenees de Du côté de chez Swann', Nouvelle Revue Française, 603 (2013), 249-254

Peer-reviewed Book Chapters:

‘La sociologie du deuil dans l’épisode de la guerre: entre éthique et esthéthique’, in Proust écrivain de la Première Guerre mondiale, ed. by Philippe Chardin and Nathalie Mauriac-Dyer (Dijon: Editions Universitaires de Dijon, 2014), pp. 37-49

‘Premières lectures européennes de Du côté de chez Swann’, Nouvelle Revue Française, ‘D’après Proust’, ed. by Philippe Forest and Stéphane Audeguy, 603 (2013), pp. 249-254

‘À la recherche du médecin philosophe: Der Proustsche Arzt zwischen Beruf und Berufung’, Marcel Proust und die Medizin (Berlin: Insel Verlag, 2014), pp. 109-127

‘Critical Reception during Proust’s lifetime’, in Marcel Proust in Context, ed. by Adam Watt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 183-190

‘Death in Venice – Exploring Ruskinian Themes in Proust’s depiction of Venice’, in Ruskin, Venice and Nineteenth-Century Cultural Travel, ed. by Keith Hanley and Emma Sdegno (Venice: Bricole, Libreria editrice cafoscarina, 2010), pp. 271-286

‘Uncanny Balbec – Phantoms, Crypts and Nightmares in Les Intermittences du cœur’, in The Beautiful and the Monstrous, ed. by Amaleena Damlé and Aurélie L’Hostis (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010), pp. 79-92

L’obscénité absolue du projet de comprendre – The Communicability of Traumatic Knowledge in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah’, in Anamnesia: Public and Private Memory in Modern French Culture, ed. by Peter Collier, Anna M. Elsner, Olga Smith (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 41-55

‘Tracing the Presence of an Absence: Mourning and Creation from ‘Les intermittence du cœur to Le Temps retrouvé, in Le Temps retrouvé eighty years after, ed. by Adam Watt (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 279-292