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.

Elected 2011

UK Fellow
Literature, Modern languages

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

Jan 1970 -

All Souls College, Oxford Senior Research Fellow

Jan 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

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