He conducts research and teaches postgraduate students in association with Cambridge University's Department of French, where he ceased lecturing in 1994. His main interest is late 19th century France and specifically the relationship between literature and visual arts in that period. He is also an Emeritus Professor of French Language and Literature at the University of London.
He is Honorary President of the Society of Dix-neuvièmistes , a group of mainly British and Irish French-studies academics, concerned with 19th century France and founded in Dublin in 2001. In 1988, he was appointed a third-grade member, or Chevalier (Knight), of the French Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms), a chivalric order established in 1955. Since 2010, he has been the Provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust.