William Pooley (Oxford) Past & Present Fellow

‘Misery in the moorlands’: lived bodies in the Landes de Gascogne, 1870–1914

Will Pooley has recently finished his doctorate in history at the University of Oxford. He holds degrees in history and French from the University of Oxford, and an MA in folklore from Utah State University. He has published articles and book chapters on gender, family history, witchcraft and folklore. His doctorate explored the history of the body through folklore sources, and in particular the ethnographic archive of Félix Arnaudin (1844–1921), a native of the Landes de Gascogne in south-western France. Arnaudin’s efforts to photograph local landscapes and buildings and record oral narratives, songs, proverbs, dialect and local history were a reaction against the drastic environmental changes in the region implemented by a national law of 1857. Arnaudin, like many historians since, believed that these environmental changes, combined with the spread of universal education, railways and military conscription, ‘modernised’ the countryside and the people who lived there. But the thesis argued that traditional attitudes to the body were not destroyed by modernisation. Ordinary people mixed old and new attitudes, and traditional understandings of the body were amplified and recycled by the bureaucracy of the modern state. Will’s postdoctoral research will take this interest in the importance of traditional culture in a slightly different direction, by examining the history of the French Atlantic ‘from below’ in songs, tales and legends.



  • 2013: ‘Man to Man: Placing Masculinity in a Legend Performed for Jean-François Bladé' in Unsettling Assumptions: Tradition, Gender, Drag, Diane Tye and Pauline Greenhill (eds.) (forthcoming).
  • 2012: ‘Can the “Peasant” Speak? Witchcraft and Silence in Guillaume Cazaux’s “The Mass of  Saint Sécaire,’ Western Folklore, 71:2.
  • 2010: 'Independent Women and Independent Body Parts: What the Tales and Legends of Nannette Lévesque can Contribute to French Rural Family History,' Folklore, 121:2.