Dr Katherine Ibbett

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Reader in Early Modern Studies

Research areas: I work on seventeenth century literature, culture and political thought; I’m also interested in the period’s relation to the religious wars of the late sixteenth century. My first book was on neoclassical theatre and theories of political action, but lately I’ve been working on a broader range of genres considered in the light of histories of affect or emotion.

I’m now completing a book manuscript stemming from that work: Compassion’s Edge: Fellow Feeling and Its Limits in Early Modern France. The book draws on varied materials – novels, tragedies, paintings, religious treatises – to pursue the political inflections of the language of fellow-feeling that flourished in the century or so after France’s wars of religion. This is not an optimistic book: I suggest that far from demonstrating kindliness toward the other, the language of compassion has historically pointed to a fracture in the social bond.

For future projects, I’m plotting a book on rivers in early modern France and its colonial projects.

I’m also very much interested in dialogues between early and late modern thought. With Hall Bjornstad of Indiana University, I have recently edited a volume on Walter Benjamin's Hypothetical French Trauerspiel, which appeared with Yale French Studies in December 2013. Benjamin’s work on the German mourning drama or Trauerspiel has been hugely influential for theorists and theatre scholars, but we were drawn especially to Benjamin’s assertion that he also wanted to tackle an early modern French Trauerspiel, a notion that sits uneasily – productively uneasily, we thought – with the way in which scholars think about French theatre. We invited a team of leading scholars of early modern Europe to take their cue from Benjamin and build a hypothetical French Trauerspiel. The volume restores early modern France back to its place at the center of post-modern theoretical debates about the vexed origins of the modern world.

I received my PhD from Berkeley and then taught at Michigan; I moved to the UK in 2009 but in 2012-13 was a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard: http://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/people/katherine-ibbett

I am also editor of the journal Seventeenth-Century French Studies.

Publications include :

“Being Moved: Louis XIV’s Triumphant Tenderness and the Revocation of Nantes,” Exemplaria 26.1 (Spring 2014): 16-38.

Walter Benjamin’s Hypothetical French Trauerspiel, co-edited with Hall Bjornstad, special issue of Yale French Studies 124 (2013)

“Mon ami, ce héros.” in Le personnel du théâtre de Pierre Corneille, ed. Myriam Dufour- Maître (Rouen: Presses Universitaires de Rouen, 2013)

“The Proof is in the Printing: Madame de Villedieu and the Language of Logic.” In Method and Variation: Narrative in Early Modern French Thought ed. Emma Gilby and Paul White (Oxford: Legenda, 2013)

“Still No Subject: Early Modern Theater Seen From French.” in What is Renaissance Drama? eds. Jeffrey Masten and William West. Special issue of Renaissance Drama 40 (2012): 161-169

• "Reconfiguring Martyrdom in the Colonial
Context: Marie de l'Incarnation." Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic, eds. Linda Gregerson and Susan Juster (December 2010,
University of Pennsylvania Press), 175-190

• "Italy and France, or How Pierre Corneille Became an Anti-Machiavel" in Italy in the Drama of Europe, eds. Albert Russell Ascoli and William West. Special issue of Renaissance Drama 36/37 (2010): 379-395

• The Style of the State in French Theater, 1630-1660: Neoclassicism and Government (Ashgate, 2009)

• "Pity, Compassion, Commiseration: Theories of Theatrical Relatedness." Seventeenth-Century French Studies 30: 2 (2008): 196-208

• "Who Makes the Statue Speak? Louis XIV and the plainte des statues." Word & Image 24:4 (2008):427-438

• "Heroes and History’s Remainders: The Restes of Pierre Corneille." Modern Language Quarterly 69:3 (September 2008): 353-366

• "Productive Perfection: The Trope of the River in Political Writing." Studies in Early Modern France 12, special issue on "Perfection" (2008): 45-58

• "The Politics of Conservation in Corneille’s Théodore: Dramatic Action and Reason of State." Romance Studies 25:3 (July 2007): 163-173


Office: rm 108, 1-4 Malet Place

Office hours: Term 2, Tuesday 10-11, 2-3

Tel: 020 7679 3075
Internal extension: 33075

email: k.ibbett@ucl.ac.uk