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School of Modern Languages & Cultures: Department of French

Staff in the Department of French

Go to the MLAC staff pages.

Dr Kathryn Banks, MA, M.Phil, PhD Cambridge

Senior Lecturer [Research Leave 2015-16] in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43434
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 43421
Room number: A40, Elvet Riverside I

Contact Dr Kathryn Banks (email at


I am a specialist of sixteenth-century French literature and culture. My research is driven by two interrelated questions. First, what kinds of ‘thinking’ does literature engage in or elicit, and how do they relate to other kinds? Second, what specific sorts of insights into other cultures – in particular, sixteenth-century France – can literature provide, and why?

I am currently working on two major projects. The first is a book on Literature and Apocalypse in the Reformation. The book takes as its starting point the fact that the Reformation saw a concomitant revival of both ‘poetic prophecy’ and interest in apocalypse. It argues that literary texts – texts which might be conceived as ‘poetic prophecy’ – could therefore do things with apocalypse which other texts did not. The book includes studies of Rabelais, Aubigné, and Du Bartas. The project is funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

The second project concerns kinesis and literature. As a Research Lecturer on the project ‘Literature as an Object of Knowledge’, directed by Terence Cave, I began exploring insights into thinking provided by the cognitive neurosciences, particularly accounts of embodied cognition from neuroscience, linguistics, and psychology. I am especially interested in the notion of ‘kinesic intelligence’ and the question of how far it might illuminate both so-called ‘figurative’ language, and also the function and representation of movement in literature. This project will be developed using my 2013 Philip Leverhulme Prize (

My 2008 book, Cosmos and Image in the Renaissance, took as its starting point the observation that in the Renaissance human and cosmic images could constitute images not only when employed in language as metaphors but also in their real existence as objects: for example, it was often believed that the human body was literally an image of the cosmos, and the sun an image of God. I show that poets reflected on these real ‘images’ by depicting them in poetic images: for example, poetic representations of the cosmos as human body explored the relationship between cosmos and ‘man’, and did so differently from theological or natural-philosophical (scientific) prose. Thus, through its use of images, poetry made distinctive contributions to thinking about relationships between God, ‘man’, and the world, relationships which were fundamental to the questions at the heart of the Reformation, as well as to topics as diverse as nature, politics, and love. The book operates through case studies of two poems, namely Du Bartas’s Sepmaine, a sixteenth-century ‘scientific’ poem and European bestseller, and Scève’s Délie, which belongs to the European vogue for Petrarchist lyric and accentuates its underlying tendency to bring religion into love poetry.

I am currently Senior Lecturer in French, and a member of Durham’s Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Previously I have been Lecturer at King’s College, London, a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard, and a pensionnaire étrangère at the Ecole normale supérieure in Paris. I am a graduate of the University of Cambridge.

Postgraduate Supervision

I am keen to receive applications from potential PhD students. I am currently supervising theses on aspects of sixteenth-century and medieval literature. 

Research Interests

  • Sixteenth-century French literature, culture, thought, and history
  • Apocalypse and 'Poetic Prophecy'
  • 'Kinesic Intelligence' in the Renaissance
  • Movement and embodiment in literature
  • Specificities of literary 'thinking' in relation to other modes of knowledge
  • Cognitive approaches to literature

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Edited Journal

Journal Article

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