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Professor Neil Kenny FBA

Sixteenth & seventeenth century literature & thought in Europe, especially France; the role played by various dimensions of language (eg concept-formation; tense-aspect) in the shaping of knowledge & belief.
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About this Fellow

My first academic positions were as Frances A. Yates Fellow at the Warburg Institute (1985–7), Stipendiary Lecturer at New College Oxford (1987–9), and Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London (1989–94). I then taught in the Department of French at the University of Cambridge many years (1994–2012), before going to Oxford. My main research area is the literature and thought of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century France. I have long been interested in how different kinds of knowledge were shaped and communicated by literary forms in general and by language in particular. The work on language focused first on ‘concepts’ (in particular that of curiosity) and then on ‘tenses’ (and the attitudes they communicate towards the dead). My current research is rather different: it examines the relationship of literature and learning to social hierarchy in early modern France. It tries to explore connections between literary and intellectual history on the one hand, and social history on the other.



Current post

  • Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford

Past Appointments

  • , Department of French, Cambridge, 1970
  • Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford, 1970


(co-ed. with Philip Ford) La Librairie de Montaigne 2012


Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France 2015


An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century French Literature and Thought: Other Times, Other Places London: Duckworth, 2008


The Uses of Curiosity in Early Modern France and Germany Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004


Curiosity in Early Modern Europe: Word Histories Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1998


The Palace of Secrets: Béroalde de Verville and Renaissance Conceptions of Knowledge Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991


(ed.) Philosophical Fictions and the French Renaissance London: Warburg Institute, 1991


Other Early Modern Languages and Literatures to 1830 Fellows

Professor Nick Boyle

German literature and philosophy from 1700 to the present, particularly with reference to Goethe. Theological aspects of contemporary politics

Professor Brian Richardson

Italian language and literature; manuscript studies; historical studies of language and literature; medieval history; historical linguistics; southern Europe, Italy.

Professor Richard McCabe

Early modern literature in its historical and intellectual contexts, especially poetry and drama; Edmund Spenser's engagement with Gaelic Ireland, the dynamics of Tudor and Jacobean patronage, the aesthetics of Renaissance tragedy.