Mr John Ignatius Wareham (Nat) Paterson
Research Student, Peter Davies Scholar
I am a current MPhil student preparing to start a PhD at Glasgow next year. My research focusses on Léopold Chauveau (1870-1940), who worked as a doctor during the First World War and Spanish flu pandemic, before becoming a professional writer and visual artist. Léopold Chauveau is a neglected figure currently enjoying a strong revival of interest: his literary works are being republished and he is the subject of a major exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay, following a donation from the author’s grandson and archivist, Marc Chauveau. I met Marc at the opening of the exhibition, and have since been collaborating with staff at the museum on translation work. I am a published translator and have been a member of the Society of Authors since 2017. I gained a First Class Honours degree in French from Lancaster University in 2014 and an MA in Translation from the University of East Anglia in 2016.
Research and Teaching Interests
My research involves analysing Chauveau’s references both to his own experiences as a doctor and to public health issues in general. My PhD involves creating a bilingual critical edition of his book of illustrated children’s stories Les Cures Merveilleuses du Docteur Popotame, in which the hero, a wild hippopotamus who fights back against colonial big game hunters, is also a doctor with miraculous healing powers. Chauveau exploits this situation to subvert anthropocentric and ethnocentric assumptions, with Docteur Popotame discovering ‘deplorable’ health conditions when he is invited to (and later held against his will in) Paris. He also refers to one of his most traumatic personal experiences — treating his own son, Renaud, who died of septicaemia in 1918 at the age of 12 — in short conversations at the start and end of the story, that depict the author reading at Renaud’s hospital bedside, with Renaud responding poignantly that hearing Docteur Popotame’s story makes himself feel completely better. My research aims to help Chauveau gain a wider readership by demonstrating his relevance to current concerns, notably the connection between poor public health and the exploitation of wildlife.
Another key interest is Chauveau’s depiction of ‘monsters’, a major theme in his literary and visual œuvre that inspired the title for the Orsay exhibition ‘Au pays des monstres’ [In the land of monsters]. Chauveau had a lifelong fascination with monsters, informed by the career of his father, a veterinary researcher with strong interest in teleology, the study of human- and non-human animals with deformities or features that are abnormal for their species. My research explores Chauveau’s identification with ‘monsters’, which he discusses in terms of his own difference from his peers, in the context of disability and neurodiversity, as well as in an eco-critical context, since his imaginary, hybrid creations often transcend the human/non-human binary.