Skip Content

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.
Neil Kenny profile picture

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 Pat Rogers

18th-century Britain, including literary, political, social and cultural history, with special concentrations in the history of the book and aspects of music, gardening and medicine

Professor Gordon Campbell

Renaissance & seventeenth century English literature, especially John Milton; ancient & modern European literatures; cultural history, especially art, architecture, garden history, legal history & Biblical studies; the contemporary Islamic world

Professor Jeremy Lawrance

The medieval & Renaissance literature & history of Spain from 1200 to 1700, with special interests in literacy, libraries & the history of ideas; humanism; imperialism

Professor Joachim Whaley

The Holy Roman Empire in its European context from the fifteenth century to 1806; the legacy of the Holy Roman Empire in German-speaking central Europe from 1806 to the present