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Sarah Kay

Professor of French ;
Chair, Department of French

D.Phil., Oxford

Office Address: 

13 University Place, 621, New York, New York (US) 10003


(212) 998-8758

Areas of Research/Interest: 

Medieval literature in French, Occitan, and Latin, especially poetry; the history of philosophy, especially Aristotle and Scholastic thought; and modern theory, especially psychoanalysis


My work ranges over the centuries and genres of medieval literature, including heroic poetry, troubadour lyric, courtly literature, hagiography, and didactic literature. It is driven by a passion for discovering previously unseen connections between premodern and postmodern thinking, both conscious and unconscious, and the conflicts and desires that help to shape it. Increasingly I have also become interested in how the Middle Ages are literally in the middle between antique culture and that of modernity. I have written on courtly literature as poised between antique logic and the logic of psychoanalysis, and on didactic poetry as illuminated both by scholastic views of universality and singularity, and by their postmodern re-articulations. My current work on medieval bestiaries is inspired equally by contemporary animal studies and by antique and medieval natural philosophy. At the heart of my inquiry is the material reality of the parchment pages on which almost all bestiaries were copied. Made from animal skin, parchment closely resembles human skin, and this ambiguity both affects the meaning of texts in which humans are invited to learn from other animals, and interferes in the experience of reading them.


Parrots and Nightingales. Troubadour Quotations and the Development of European Poetry. UPenn, 2013

Knowing Poetry: Verse in Medieval France from the Rose to the Rhétoriqueurs (with Armstrong). Cornell, 2011.

French translation Une Muse savante? Poésie et savoir, du Roman de la Rose jusqu'aux grands rhétoriqueurs, Classiques Garnier, 2014

Thinking Through Chrétien de Troyes (with Stahuljak, Green, Kinoshita, McCracken). Boydell and Brewer, 2011.

Editor, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval French Literature (with Gaunt). Cambridge, 2008.

The Place of Thought: The Complexity of One in Medieval French Didactic Poetry. U. Penn, 2007.

Zizek: A Critical Introduction. Polity Press, 2003.

A Short History of French Literature
(with Bowie and Cave). Oxford, 2003.

Courtly Contradictions: The Emergence of the Literary Object in the Twelfth Century.
Stanford, 2001.

The Chanson de geste in the age of romance: Political Fictions.
Clarendon, 1995.

Subjectivity in Troubadour Poetry. Cambridge, 1990.

Updated on 09/02/2016