The Buchanan Team

As we hope the project will be a collaborative journey, we are delighted to share some further information about the team.


Name: Professor Mary Orr

Subject area / year: Buchanan Chair of French since September 2016

Research interests: French Literatures and Cultures of the 19th-21stCentury; Narrative Forms; The Histories of Nineteenth-Century Natural Sciences; Women’s Writing

My research is integral to my current Undergraduate teaching:

FR2206: Literature from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century

FR4026: ‘Flaubert’s France’

FR4027: ‘Nineteenth-Century French Narratives of the Sea’

I am the founding Director of the interdisciplinary research Centre at St Andrews ‘c19c’ (Centre for Cross-Cultural circa Nineteenth-Century Research) launched in May 2017:

Role in project:

Initiator! The Buchanan Chair of French is one of few named chairs at the University of St Andrews. As the first woman holder, I wanted to make a difference to its research and teaching remits through a project that could open up creative opportunities for Undergraduate students to be involved in educational Modern Languages research and outreach. 

The logo for this project comes from my illustrated inaugural lecture on the 7th of February 2018, ‘George Buchanan’s Brain: The Powers of Peregrination in Transnational French Studies,’ which set out my research interests within the spirit of George Buchanan (1506-1582), after whom the Buchanan Chair is named. As a ‘Humanist and Educator’ and alumnus of St Andrews, Buchanan epitomizes the long history and legacies of Modern Languages at St Andrews since its foundation. For me as the current Buchanan Chair, this important story needed to be told and curated in the Buchanan Building for current students and for others who use the building.

The two aims for the project in my pitch to the University’s Undergraduate Research Assistant Scheme for its funding were:

  • Why is the Buchanan Building so named?
  • How can the Buchanan Building’s spaces – literal and metaphorical – better speak to the central importance of Modern Languages at St Andrews past, present and future?

The project launched in early February 2020 with its SH Research Assistant, Katharine Lovatt. Two JH Research Assistantships for the project were immediately advertised and interviews held. Hannah Thomson and Teilo Evans then joined the project team at the end of February.

Its main goal was to start to re-curate the multiple spaces of the Buc as representational of Modern Languages at St Andrews, open to the world.

When the Buchanan Building’s large brown doors were locked by the University on the 18th March due to COVID-19, the virtual possibilities for the Buc have now become the exciting new dimensions of the project!

What inspired you to launch the project? 

  • The Buchanan Building has much untapped opportunity to tell its important stories through the people that weave together the importance of its past, present and future.
  • My unusual knowledge of the Buchanan Chair and the Buchanan Building!

My very first lecture for French at St Andrews was given in the Buchanan lecture theatre by the then Buchanan Chair, Professor Anthony Levi! I returned briefly to St Andrews in the 1990s as Lecturer in French when my predecessor, Professor Paul Gifford, was the Buchanan Chair.

What do you hope the project will achieve?

As an Alumna and Educator, I am excited to see what the (George) Buchanan project can achieve and create as we curate the current ‘Buc’, its physical and virtual doors open to a long future for study and development of French and Modern Languages at St Andrews!

Join us in its work!


Name: Katharine Lovatt

Subject Area / Year:

Masters of Studies by Research: Lessons in Museum Curation from 19thC French Literature

MA Hons, English Literature and French, Class of 2020.

Research Interests: 19thC French Studies; Dissemination of Knowledge from International Perspectives; Literary Translation; Theatre of the Absurd; Children’s Literature and Collecting.

Role in project: Alumna Consultant

Favourite thing about St Andrews:

The sense of community and conviviality. Currently living and studying in Paris, I think back fondly on the strong sense of belonging I felt, and the beautiful setting; cobbled streets, dramatic ruins and everchanging seascapes.

What drew you to the project?

I had worked with Professor Orr on two modules during Honours, one of which involved a maritime exploration into 19th century French Literature, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was very excited then, to embark upon another research project, under the supervision of Professor Orr, with a totally different focus and application. I am a natural collector and love selecting and arranging things to bring them to life. The prospect of gaining curatorial experience was very appealing, working to make Modern Languages teaching spaces better reflect the diverse exchange of language, culture and ideas that takes place here. 

What do you hope the project will achieve?

My vision is that a Fresher or visitor will walk into the Buchanan Building and feel that they have arrived in the right place. I have had such a positive five years within the Modern Languages community, and I want the teaching space to do justice to the breadth, diversity and prestige of what is being achieved within the school, through up-to-date, dynamic displays and exhibitions.


Name: Hannah Thomson 

Subject area / year: French, Russian & International Relations, Penultimate Year

Role in project: 

Junior Honours Research Assistant. My role involves working with the team to re-curate the multiple spaces of the Buchanan building as representational of Modern Languages at St Andrews. I will also be working on the blog to allow the university community and wider public to follow our progress and to raise awareness of George Buchanan and the historic relationship between him and St Andrews. I am looking forward to creating a space in which students can pass time between their classes, to create an ‘open-door’ atmosphere within the building.

Research interests: Geopolitics and its Investment Implications; Postcolonial Literature

What drew you to the project?

  • I spend a lot of time in the Buchanan and think its prime location within St Andrews is an underutilised space.
  • I was inspired by the opportunity to collaborate with interesting people to make a positive lasting change on the building.

What do you hope the project will achieve?

I am excited to see what the project can achieve in terms of reinvigorating a sense of collaboration and community between the different users of the Buchanan building. By the end of the project, I hope to see both a modern and historic space which can capture our interest at different points throughout the day.


Name: Teilo Evans

Subject area / year: Art History & French, Penultimate Year

Role in project: Junior Honours Research Assistant

Research interests: Surrealism; The Parisian Avant-Garde; Translation; Welsh Art

Favourite thing about St Andrews:

A very difficult question to answer, but I’d probably have to say its diversity and inclusivity. Being a student here at the University of St Andrews has really helped me open my eyes to the world around me! It has allowed me to come into contact with so many inspirational people – from peers to academic staff, through which I have come to further appreciate and love the subjects I study. Additionally, I am also really grateful for the breadth of opportunities St Andrews has provided me with outside the classroom – particularly my involvements with the music society which have included managing its social media accounts, playing with the symphony orchestra and musically directing the chamber choir during my second year.

What drew you to the project?

I was initially drawn to this exciting project because I wanted to further my researching capacities. I also thought it would be an amazing opportunity to learn something new about a building I use more or less every day, as a French student in St Andrews. Before the project, I had not thought twice about who George Buchanan was and why the building is named after him, and I wanted to change this! 

What do you hope the project will achieve?

I hope that the project will raise awareness of the importance of the Buchanan building and its unique history within the university and the wider community. I also hope that the online exhibition we are hoping to curate will provide students with a sense of belonging to a community in these unprecedented times. Although we are not able to physically curate anything in the building at present, I hope that when students return to St Andrews, they will take a moment to appreciate the building and all that goes on within it on a day-to-day basis, having hopefully learnt a thing or two through our online platforms and methods