Katherine Ibbett
Caroline de Jager Fellow and Tutor in French


I was educated at a comprehensive school in west London, and went from there to Oxford where I read English and French at New College. I then left for California and in 2003 got my PhD in French from UC Berkeley. My first job was at the University of Michigan; I came back to the UK in 2009 to teach at University College London, before moving to Trinity in 2017.

I particularly welcome applications from students at non-selective state schools and colleges which may not have a tradition of students applying to Oxford.


I teach Trinity students across the first-year Prelims course in French. In second and final years, I teach sixteenth and seventeenth-century French literature and culture (Papers VII and X) and am also involved with various optional papers (Paper XII) on histories of migration and on eco-theory. I also teach translation into English, and lately have been using these classes as a way to introduce students to contemporary authors and critics from across the Francophone world. For the Faculty, I lecture on a range of early modern topics; I’ve been especially involved in bringing discussions of gender and sexuality to bear on early modern writing across various genres, and, alongside other colleagues working on histories of race, am also teaching on the early modern Americas. 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 practice.


I work on early modern literature, culture and political thought. My first book was on tragedy (especially Pierre Corneille) and theories of political action, and I continued this conversation between theory and theatre with a coedited volume thinking through Walter Benjamin’s concept of the Trauerspiel and its relevance to a French corpus.  In my second book, Compassion’s Edge, I worked with a broader range of genres, exploring the affective undertow of religious toleration. The book explores the language of fellow-feeling – pity, compassion, charitable care – that flourished in the century or so after the Wars of Religion. It’s a gloomy sort of account: this is not a story about compassion overcoming difference, but rather about compassion reinforcing divides. The project was supported by a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard, and in 2018 won the Biennial Book Prize of the Society for Renaissance Studies.

I continue to work on early modern affect but am also beginning a very different third book – Liquid Empire – on the writing of water in early modern France and its territories, from the lyric poets of the sixteenth century to the Mississippi settlements of the 1700s. The project takes up the figure of the riverain to think through how river writing shapes a poetics of resource and residency, from the poet to the washerwoman, the Indigenous canoeist to the Versailles nymph. I’ve carried out research for the American tributaries of this work as a visiting fellow at the John Carter Brown library in Providence and at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Selected Publications

Compassion’s Edge: Fellow-Feeling and its Limits in Early Modern France (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017)

“Faking it: affect and gender in the Essais.” In Montaigne, Affect, Emotion, ed. Todd Reeser. Special issue, Montaigne Studies XXX: 1-2 (2018): 69-82.

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

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

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