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Research Interests

I work on early modern intellectual history, focusing mainly on northern Europe (including Britain) and on the 16th and 17th centuries.

My previous research centred on Montaigne, and in particular on his conception of the self: what does it mean to belong to oneself, or to live for oneself, and what does this have to do with being a free person?
 
I'm currently at work on two main projects. The first concerns ideas about the household and household management (oeconomia in its original, classical sense). This project builds on my existing interest in early modern selves to consider the domestic, familial context in which these selves were embedded. Montaigne's appeal to household management as a model for self-management provides the starting-point for a range of wider questions: How did early modern thinkers locate the household in the broader landscape of human life and activity? What was the relationship, in their eyes, between the identities and duties of human beings as individuals, members of households, and citizens?
 
The second project is about mythography and theories of myth in the centuries preceding the Enlightenment. This research also has its roots in Montaigne, and in his complex assessments of the wisdom of the ancients and of newly discovered 'savage' peoples. How did Christians in early modern Europe make sense of the myths of pagan antiquity, and of the myths of contemporary 'heathens' and 'primitives'? Why were they interested in them and what did they think could be learned from them? We know a lot about 18th-century approaches to these questions, but much less so about the Renaissance and 17th-century background to these developments. A better understanding of that earlier context may also, I hope, help shed light on the vexed status of the Enlightenment as a vehicle of 'irreligion'.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jan 2010

Master of Philosophy (MPhil), University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jan 2005

Bachelor of Arts, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Jan 2004

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