Professor Kate E Tunstall

Kate E. Tunstall, M.A. (B.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. Cambridge) 
(On Leave October 2019-2023 while serving as interim Provost of Worcester College) 
Professor of French 
Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones Fellow in Modern Languages, Worcester College
Organizing Tutor for Fine Art, Worcester College


My research expertise are in eighteenth-century and Enlightenment writing, from philosophy to æsthetics, and Diderot in particular. I currently have two writing projects on the go, one on ‘occasional’ writings or ‘écrits de circonstance’, including the poetry produced in the wake of Damiens’ knife attack on Louis XV, and the other, provisionally entitled Diderot’s Dressing Gowns: Literary Material in Action

I am the author of Blindness and Enlightenment (2011),  the editor of Self-Evident Truths? Human Rights and the Enlightenment (2012), and the co-editor of a number of collections of essays, including Naming, Renaming, and Un-Naming in Early Modern Europe (2013). I was the first Academic Programme Director for the Voltaire Foundation’s Besterman Centre for the Enlightenment, and co-steered the ANR-funded research collective, AGON. La dispute: cas, controverses et querelles à l’âge classique (Oxford-Paris-IV). I am a member of the EHESS-based Groupe de Recherche Interdisciplinaire de l’Histoire du Littéraire, and the General Editor of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies.


Translation is central to my academic practice. I have translated or co-translated three works by Diderot into English: Letter on the Blind, Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown (with Katie Scott), and Rameau’s Nephew (with Caroline Warman). The latter, a free-access, multi-media edition, won the 2015 British Society for 18thc Studies Prize for digital resources. Most recently, I translated Daudet’s short story, Mr Segwin’s Goat.

Undergraduate Teaching and Access to Higher Education

I teach undergraduates in lectures, seminars and tutorials, in both English and French, introducing them to a wide variety of texts and topics in French literature and culture from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries. I also teach translation into English.

I have a longstanding commitment to and strong track record in widening participation in higher education since arriving in Oxford in 1997. I was myself educated at a Comprehensive School in South London and went from there to Cambridge, where I did a B.A. in French and German, including a year at the Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier. I did a Ph.D in French at Cambridge, and held a Kennedy Fellowship at Harvard from 1995-96. I am always delighted to receive UCAS applications from sixth-formers from non-selective state schools and colleges. Read an interview with me about Admissions (scroll down to page 10), ‘What Tutors Want’, in the Worcester Alternative Prospectus.

Graduate Teaching at Masters and D.Phil levels

I welcome applications from students (Masters or doctorate), wishing to study any aspect of French eighteenth-century writing, Enlightenment, Diderot, materialism, aesthetics. Doctoral students of mine have worked or are working on subjects as diverse as religious tolerance and Bayle, Diderot and Lessing, biography and Ovid, eighteenth-century theories and practices of education, gender and sexuality in Rabelais and his reception, the history of plagiarism. I coordinate the early modern graduate exchange with the department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures at Johns Hopkins University, and the FribOx programme, which runs an annual conference with the Université de Fribourg (Switzerland).  


UCU member. For coverage of the 2017 pensions dispute, see here.
Statement on the risks posed to universities by the PREVENT duty, see here.
Director and Treasurer, Oxford Amnesty Lectures.
Radio: Series on Diderot (with Caroline Warman) for Radio 3 ‘The Essay’.
Member: Campaign for the Public University. For an intervention in the 2011 debate about higher education, see here

Publications (Books, Editions, Translations)

Blindness and Enlightenment. An Essay (New York and London: Continuum, 2011). Reviewed in London Review of Books; and on H-Net: ‘Her writing succeeds in uniting serious scholarship of high quality with the traditions of an almost extinct vein of learned and lightly satiric British wit. […] It deserves a place in the library of every person at all interested in Enlightenment thought and its central ideas.’

(As editor), Self-Evident Truths? Human Rights and the Enlightenment. The Oxford Amnesty Lectures (New York and London: Continuum, 2012). 

(As co-translator, with Caroline Warman), Denis Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephewed. Marian Hobson, music directed by Pascal Duc (Cambridge, Open Book Publishers, 2014; 2nd edition 2016). Review: “it’s a scholarly edition and a very highbrow gossip magazine rolled into one! And, dulcis in fundo, the new translation is a tour de force of grace and intuition, a profoundly intelligent rendition of the many nuances of Diderot’s language. Miraculously, it manages to be both contemporary and absolutely dix-huitième. A fantastic teaching tool, one that brings the highest scholarship down to earth.”

(As co-editor, with Wilda Anderson), Naming, Un-Naming, and Re-Naming in Early Modern and Enlightenment Europe, a special double issue of Romance Studies 31.3-4 (2013)

(As co-editor and co-translator, with Caroline Warman), Diderot and Rousseau: Networks of Enlightenment. Collected Essays by Marian Hobson (SVEC 2011:4). See here and here for reviews.

(As co-editor with Guillaume Pigeard de Gurbert and Jean Salem), Qu’est-ce que les Lumières? (SVEC 2006:12).

(As editor), Displacement, Asylum, Migration: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2004 (OUP, 2006).

Publications (Articles, Chapters) 

‘The Knife and the Pen: The Literary Production of the 1757 Attentat’, in Turmoil/Dans La Tourmente: Instability and Insecurity in Eighteenth-Century France, ed. Siofra Pierse (in process).

‘Conversations with the Blind, or ‘Aren’t You Surprised I can Speak?”, in A Cultural History of Disability: The Long Eighteenth Century, ed. Chris Gabbard and Susannah Mintz (Bloomsbury, 2019).

‘La fabrique du Diderot-philosophe, 1765-1782’, in A l’enseigne du GRIHL: quelques parcours dans l’histoire du littéraire (2018).

‘Eighteenth-Century Aesthetic Thought’, in The Cambridge History of French Thought, ed. Michael Moriarty and Jeremy Jennings (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

‘Des pseudonymes, des faux, et d’autres fabrications: disputes autour du nom d’auteur (1688-1765)’, in Querelles et création à l’époque moderne, ed. Jeanne-Marie Hostiou et Alexis Tadié (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2019).

‘Diderot-Voltaire: la coédition comme coalition’French Studies Bulletin, 38.143 (2017), 24-30.

‘Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew, and the Figure of the Philosophe in Eighteenth-Century Paris’, in A History of Modern French Literature, ed. Christopher Prendergast (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017), pp. 371-92.

‘Ne nous engageons point dans des querelles’: un projet de guerre perpétuelle?’Revue de Synthèse, tome 137, 6e série, 3-4 (2016), 345-372.

Diderot’s Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown, co-translated with Katie Scott, Oxford Art Journal, 39.2 (2016), 175-184.

Le Neveu de Rameau, règne des pagodes et des magots’, Diderot Studies, 35 (2015 [2017]), 53-70.

‘A Case in Transit: Reading Diderot (reading Montaigne) reading Augustine’, in Montaigne in Transit: Essays in Honour of Ian Maclean, ed. Neil Kenny, Richard Scholar, and Wes Williams (Oxford: Legenda, 2016), pp. 19-35. 

‘The Early Modern Embodied Mind and the Entomological Imaginary’ in Mind, Body, Motion, Matter: Eighteenth-Century British and French Literary Perspectives, eds. Mary Helen McMurran and Alison Conway (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016), pp. 202-229.

‘Pseudonyms, Ghosts, and Vampires in the Republic of Letters: Adrien Baillet’s Auteurs déguisez (1690)”, in Romance Studies 31. 3–4 (2013), 200–211. 

”You’re either anonymous or you’re not!’ Variations on Anonymity in Modern and Early Modern Culture’, in MLN (2011), 671-688.

‘Eyes Wide Shut: Le Rêve de d’Alembert’, in New Essays on Diderot, ed. James Fowler (Cambridge: CUP, 2011), pp. 141-157. 

‘Philosophy, Ethics and the Work of Fiction’, ed. Alexis Tadié and Richard Scholar, Fiction and the Frontiers of Knowledge in Europe, 1500–1800 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), pp. 107–21.

‘Sexe, mensonges et colonies: les discours de l’amour dans le Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville’, Littératures classiques 69 (2009), 17-34. 

‘L’aveugle qui suit l’aveugle qui suit l’aveugle: la philosophie intertextuelle de la Lettre sur les aveugles’ in Marion Chottin (ed.), L’Aveugle et le philosophe (Paris: Presses Universitaires de Paris-Sorbonne, 2009), pp. 63–81.

‘Pré-histoire d’un emblème des Lumières: l’aveugle-né de Montaigne à Diderot’, in Isabelle Moreau (ed.), Les Lumières en mouvement: la circulation des idées au XVIIIe siècle (Lyon: ENS, 2009), pp. 173–97.

‘Portraits and Afterlives: Diderot and Montaigne’, in Pre-Histories and Afterlives: Studies in Critical Method for Terence Cave, ed. Anna Holland and Richard Scholar (Legenda, 2008), pp. 95-105. 

‘The Judgement of Experience: Reading and Seeing in Diderot’s Lettre sur les aveugles’ in French Studies, 62.4 (2008), 404–16.

‘Diderot, Chardin et la matière sensible’, Dix-Huitième Siècle, 39 (2007), 577-593. 

‘Paradoxe sur le portrait : Auto-portrait de Diderot en Montaigne’, Diderot Studies, 30 (2007), 197-210. 

‘‘Des circonstances assez peu philosophiques’: Diderot’s‘aveugle-né du Puiseaux’’ in French Studies Bulletin, 27.99 (2006), 33–6.

‘Le récit est un voile: esthétique et Lumières’, in Qu’est-ce que les lumières?, ed. Guillaume Pigeard de Gurbert, Jean Salem, and Kate E. Tunstall (SVEC, 2006:12), 143-154.

‘Text, Image, Intertext: Diderot, Chardin, Pliny’, SVEC, (2006:12), 345-357.

‘Racine in 1769 and 1910, or Racine à l’usage de ceux qui voient’, SVEC, (2006:08), pp. 190-205.

”Crânement beau tout de même’: Still life and Le Ventre de Paris’, French Studies, LVIII, no. 2 (2004), 177-187. 

‘Word meets Image: Racine and silent film’, Word and Image, 19.4 (2003), 247-260. 

‘Diderot’s ‘promenade Vernet’ or the salon as landscape garden’, French Studies, LV, no. 3 (2001), 339-49.

‘Courbet, Advertising and Femininity’, French Cultural Studies, 12:1, No. 34 (2001), 109-14. 

‘Chardin’s Games’, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (2000:08), pp. 131–41.

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