Dr Thibaut Maus de Rolley

Dr Thibaut Maus de Rolley

Associate Professor


Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2012

Research summary

I am a scholar of early modern French and comparative literature engaging with history from a range of different perspectives (intellectual history, history of science, witchcraft studies). My work seeks to redefine the boundaries of what is usually regarded as ‘literature’ and ‘knowledge’ by arguing for the centrality in early modern culture of neglected and often marginalized texts, topics, and figures: namely, flying monsters and aerial travellers (the subject of my first book), demons and witches (discussed in various essays and in my forthcoming book), and street performers, conjurers, and acrobats (the focus of my current research).

My first book, Élévations (Droz, 2011; Prix de la Chancellerie des Universités de Paris), offered the very first study of flight and air travel in Renaissance literature and knowledge. Putting into dialogue a wide and diverse network of sources in five languages, from the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century, and moving across linguistic, generic, and disciplinary boundaries, my book argued that narratives of voyages through the air, to heavenly realms and to the moon constituted a rich literary tradition in Europe well before the lunar fictions of the 1630s (e.g. Godwin, Cyrano de Bergerac). This topic offered me a decentered vantage point from which I explored and linked key issues for the understanding of early modern literature and thought: namely, the changes brought by the ‘cosmographical revolution’ to conceptions of space and travel; the emergence of cultural relativism; the period’s ambivalent discourse on intellectual curiosity; the centrality of demonology and witchcraft to Renaissance culture; theories of allegory, verisimilitude, and the marvellous; literary fiction as a vehicle of knowledge and a heuristic tool.

My second book, Moi, Louis Gaufridy, ayant soufflé plus de mille femmes. Une confession de sorcier au XVIIe siècle (Les Belles Lettres, forthcoming 2022) presents an in-depth study of the 1611 trial of the Marseilles priest Louis Gaufridy, a seminal case of witchcraft and demonic possession resulting from the exorcisms of two young nuns who accused Gaufridy of being a witch and causing their possession. My book focuses on the witchcraft confession of Gaufridy, printed immediately after his execution, which soon turned the case into a cause célèbre. I examine how such witchcraft confessions were produced and shaped during trials, discussing in particular questions of agency and storytelling; I also study the various accounts of the Gaufridy case published between 1611 and 1613, thus shedding new light on the many forms taken in the early modern period by a thriving littérature du crime, at the intersection of law and literature. 

Shifting from demonic illusions to those performed by street performers, conjurers, tight-rope walkers and acrobats, my current research project (‘Jugglers: An Intellectual History of Street Performers, 1500-1700’), examines the place occupied by 'jugglers' in wider debates about imposture, illusion, and the limits of nature, aiming to show how this popular and widely accessible ‘art of deception’ offered Europeans new ways of thinking about their uncertain world, in a time of discoveries and religious conflict. This project is funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship. 

Grants and Awards:

2022: British Academy/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship

2010: British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

2010: Prix solennel de la Chancellerie des Universités de Paris (Prix Louis-Forest)

2003: Sorbonne/ENS PhD Scholarship (AMN)

Teaching summary

Courses taught at UCL:

  • FREN0006 ('Reading French Texts', Lectures on Marguerite de Navarre);
  • FREN1103 ('Introduction to Medieval and Early Modern French Literature');
  • FREN0011 ('The Renaissance Period: Love in the Renaissance');
  • FREN4114 ('Old Worlds, New Worlds: Humanism and Travel Writing');
  • FREN0043 ('Fiction and the Archives: Rewriting Criminal Stories in Early Modern France');
  • ELCS6055 ('First Contact: European Encounters with the New World');
  • ELCS6105 ('Travel Writing');
  • ELCS0060 ('Men on the Moon: Cosmic Voyages in the Early Modern Period');
  • CLITG003 ('Men on the Moon: Cosmic Voyages in the Early Modern Period', MA Course);

  • ARTFGE01 ('Magic, Demonology and Witchcraft in the Early Modern Period'; 'Utopia and the New World'; 'The Interpretation of Rabelais', Core Course of the MA in Early Modern Studies).

PhD supervision: 

2016-19 (Co-Primary Supervisor): Marina Bezzi (UCL, SELCS): ‘History, geography, and colonial expansion in the works of Richard Hakluyt and Lancelot Voisin de la Popelinière’. Passed without corrections (28 February 2019).

2019-present (Subsidiary Supervisor): Ethan Darden (UCL, SELCS): 'On legendary swords in history and literature'. 

I welcome PhD applications that resonate with my research interests: Renaissance literature and thought; early modern comparative literature (French, Italian, Spanish, English); narrative fiction; magic, demonology and witchcraft; witchcraft studies; travel writing; imaginary voyages and alternative worlds (especially lunar travel narratives); literature and geography; the early modern imagination of space; history of science.


Sorbonne Nouvelle
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Habilitation a Diriger des Recherches |
Universite de la Sorbonne (Paris IV)
Doctorate, Doctorat | 2009
Universite de la Sorbonne (Paris IV)
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 2002
Universite de la Sorbonne (Paris IV)
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1998


BA (Sorbonne, 1998),  Agrégation de Lettres modernes (ENS Lyon, 2000), MA (Paris 8/Sorbonne, 2002), PhD in French and Comparative Literature (Sorbonne, 2009), HDR: Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches (Sorbonne-Nouvelle, 2020). Former scholar of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (1995-2003).

Before joining UCL in 2012 as a Lecturer in French Renaissance Studies (then Associate Professor, 2017), I taught in Montreal (Université de Montréal, 2001-2) and Paris (Sorbonne, 2003-7) as a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant and Teaching Fellow (AMN/ATER), and in Oxford as a Besse Senior Scholar (Worcester College, 2007-10) and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages and Oriel College, 2010-12).