School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS)


Dr Katherine Ibbett

Dr Katherine Ibbett



  • Reader in Early Modern Studies
    Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL


I work on early modern literature, culture and political thought, chiefly in France. My first book was on neoclassical theatre (especially Pierre Corneille) and theories of political action, but in recent years I’ve worked on the question of compassion in relation to a broader range of genres, exploring the affective undertow of religious toleration from the Wars of Religion to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. It is not an optimistic project: I suggest that far from demonstrating kindliness toward the other, the language of compassion has historically pointed to a fracture in the social bond. The book, Compassion’s Edge: Fellow Feeling and Its Limits in Early Modern France, is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press. 

I’m also beginning work on a book entitled Liquid Empire about the poetics of water (especially rivers) in early modern France, thinking through what it means for writing to be figured as water, and exploring what it means for literature to be considered as a natural and national resource. 

I’m committed to dialogues between early modern writing and critical theory, broadly considered, and that dialogue is very much at work in my teaching and writing practice. With Hall Bjornstad, I have edited a volume on Walter Benjamin's Hypothetical French Trauerspiel, which appeared with Yale French Studies in December 2013.

I welcome PhD proposals from students looking to work on early modern France, and especially on emotion studies, gender, religious difference,  or discourses about the natural: but I also work well with people outside of the early modern who share theoretical interests in gender, the environmental humanities, Benjamin, or affect theory. 



Award year Qualification Institution
2003 PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
French studies
University of California - Berkeley
1998 MA
Master of Arts
French studies
University of California - Berkeley
1996 BA Hons
Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
English and French
University of Oxford

I received my PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and then taught at Michigan; I moved to the UK in 2009 but have retained close links with US scholars, and in 2012-13 was a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard. 

On leave 2016-17