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Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies

Photo of Professor Hugh Roberts

Professor Hugh Roberts

Professor of French Renaissance Literature


01392 724226


My teaching and research focus on the intersection between French literature and philosophy. My research has concentrated on the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries yet I have recently taken a new direction to pursue interests in the philosopher, social activist, and mystic, Simone Weil (1909-1943). 

See Open Access publications:

'Simone Weil and George Herbert on Love through Poetry', Forum for Modern Lnaguage Studies, 59 (2023);

'An exiled poet adapts Plato: Théophile de Viau’s Traité de l’immortalité de l’âme and the Phaedo'International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 29 (2022). 

I am also privileged to lead a project with my colleague Professor Helen Vassallo to facilitate translation and promotion of Ukrainian war poetry, with our project partners in Ukraine, the poet and translator Yuliya Musakovska and the poet and broadcaster Olena Huseinova. See our YouTube playlist.

The Translating Ukrainian War Poetry project emerges from 'Translating Cultures with UNESCO Cities of Literature', an event in July 2023 organized by LCVS with our friends at Exeter UNESCO City of Literature.

With the support of the University's Partiripatory Research Bridging Communities Fund, we organized 'Ukrainian War Poetry: Translating Experience' with the Devon Ukrainian Association in spring 2024.

We are now working towards a translation of the soldier-poet Artur Dron' by Yuliya Musakovskla and also plan to translate the prize-winning soldier-poet Yaryna Chornohuz and edit an anthology in English of the powerful poetry being published in Ukraine now. 

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My research interests coalesce at the intersection of French philosophy and literature in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as well as in the works of the early twentieth-century philosopher Simone Weil. I have been invited to contribute to the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Simone Weil and will be speaking at the annual meeting of the French Association Simone Weil in autumn 2024.

I am publishing on earlier funded projects, including: .

Poetry on Trial: French Libertine Verse

Early seventeenth-century France witnessed an outpouring of collections of lewd or outrageous verse, which gave rise to one of the earliest obscenity trials in modern history, of the notorious poet Théophile de Viau (1590-1626), in 1623-25.

I held a Society for French Studies Prize Fellowship in 2019 to produce a digital critical edition of incriminated verses and corresponding trial records.

My first publication for the fellowship is available through Open Access:  'An exiled poet adapts Plato: Théophile de Viau’s Traité de l’immortalité de l’âme and the Phaedo'International Journal of the Classical Tradition (2022).

‘Poetry on Trial’ builds on an earlier project, funded by a British Academy Research Development (2010-13) held in collaboration with Professor Guillaume Peureux (Université Paris Nanterre), to edit poetry collections known as the recueils satyriques. Our edition of one of the earliest of these, Les Muses incognues (1604), was published by Honoré Champion in 2020. Prof. Peureux and I are now working towards an edtion of the most notorious of these collections, Le Parnasse des poetes satyriques (1622), which precipitated the trial of Théophile de Viau. 

Gossip and Nonsense: Excessive Language in Renassaance France

I was Principal Investigator for an an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant, Gossip and Nonsense: Excessive Language in Renaissance France (2012-15), in collaboration with Dr Emily Butterworth (Co-Investigator, King’s College London).

See Gossip and Nonsense in Renaissance France and England, co-edited with Emily Butterworth. My chapter on versions of Rabelais's nonsense in Renaissance England was published in The Edinburgh Companion to Nonsense in spring 2021 and an article in French on 'coq-à-l'âne' from the second half of the sixteenth and first decades of the seventeenth century is forthcoming.


With Dr Annette Tomarken (Honorary Research Fellow, University of Kent at Canterbury), I edited the complete works of Bruscambile, an early seventeenth-century French comedian and bestseller of his day.

I was awarded a Research Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust (2009-10) and two Small Research Grants by the British Academy (2008-09) to pursue work on the edition. 

I have published several single and co-authored articles and chapters on Bruscambille.

Obscenity in Renaissance France

Between 2007-2009, I was Principal Investigator for an AHRC-funded international research network on the notion of obscenity in Renaissance France. The network, which included some thirty researchers from the UK, USA, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands, gave rise to two major publications: Obscénités renaissantes, ed. by Hugh Roberts, Guillaume Peureux and Lise Wajeman (Geneva: Droz, 2011) and ObscenityEMF: Studies in Early Modern France, 14 (2010), ed. by Russell J. Ganim and Hugh Roberts (as guest editor).

Ancient Cynicism in Renaissance France

My research and teaching interests in French literature and philosophy, and more specifically projects on Bruscambile, obscenity and the reception of ancient philosophy, derive from my PhD, revised for publication as Dogs' Tales Representations of Ancient Cynicism in French Renaissance Texts (2006). I have been invited to contribute a chapter on 'Renaissance Cynicisms' to the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Ancient Cynicism.

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I am happy to discuss research proposals on any subject relating to my research and teaching interests.

Research students

2012-16: Dr Anna Blaen, 'The theory and practice of comic sexual euphemism: a comparative study of English and French texts, c.1532-1616' (PhD), AHRC funded.

2010-12: Dr Catrin Francis, ‘The Politics of Appropriation in French Revolutionary Theatre’ (PhD awarded 2012; supervision by Professor Thomas Wynn, 2009-10).

2005-06: Dr Alice King, '"More faces than Proteus": The Genesis and evolution of the French Court Ballet 1581-1669' (supervised final year of PhD, following supervision by Dr Elizabeth Woodrough).

2009-10: Zara Green, MRes (co-supervised with Dr Sara Smart).

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2024 | 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2007 | 2006 | 2004 | 2003 |


  • Roberts H. (2024) ‘Faire Noël avec les seigneurs, Pasques en son logis, & caresme-prenant en tout lieu’: Complicity, Friendship, and Private Property in Bruscambille, The Culture of Celebration in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Richard Cooper, Legenda.








  • Roberts HGA. (2017) "Capitaine Galimatias, homme obscur, et né de la lie du peuple" (Furetière). Le galimatias, vice de style et genre littéraire (fin XVIe-première moitié du XVIIe siècle), Vices de style et défauts esthétiques XVIe-XVIIIe siècle, Classiques Garnier, 361-375.





  • Roberts HGA, Tomarken AH. (2013) « L’animal le plus parfaict de la nature » ? L’androgynie dans les prologues de Bruscambille, L'hermaphrodite de la Renaissance aux Lumières, Classiques Garnier, 241-255.
  • Roberts HGA. (2013) État Présent: Obscenity in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century France, French Studies: a quarterly review, volume 67, pages 535-542, DOI:10.1093/fs/knt153.



  • Roberts H. (2011) Nonsense Poetry: XIII-XIV-XV centuries, vol 2, Reveries: Otiose, reveries, sleepers, FRENCH STUDIES, volume 65, no. 4, pages 519-520, DOI:10.1093/fs/knr159. [PDF]
  • Roberts HGA, Peureux GJ, Wajeman L. (2011) Obscénités renaissantes, Droz.
  • Roberts HGA. (2011) Emblem Books, Obscénités renaissantes, Droz, 93-100.
  • Roberts HGA. (2011) L’euphémisme comique au début du XVIIe siècle et les limites de l’obscénité, Obscénités renaissantes, Droz, 247-261.
  • Roberts HGA. (2011) Erasmus, Obscénités renaissantes, Droz, 100-105.
  • Roberts HGA, Butterworth E. (2011) 'L'Obscène' in French Renaissance Texts, Obscénités renaissantes, Droz, 87-92.


  • Roberts HGA, Birberick AL, Ganim RJ. (2010) Obscenity, Rockwood Press.
  • Roberts HGA. (2010) A Devils’ Banquet: Apologies for Obscenity in Late Renaissance French Texts, EMF: Studies in Early Modern France, volume 14, pages 195-214.


  • Roberts HGA. (2009) Medicine and Nonsense in French Renaissance Mock Prescriptions, Sixteenth Century Journal, volume 40, no. 3, pages 721-744.
  • Roberts HGA. (2009) Mocking the Future in French Renaissance Mock-Prognostications, The Uses of the Future in Early Modern Europe, Routledge, 198-214.
  • Roberts HGA. (2009) Performing Nonsense in Early Seventeenth-Century France: Bruscambille’s Galimatias, Nonsense and Other Senses: Dysfunctional Communication and Regulated Absurdity in Literature, Cambridge Scholars Press, 127-145.


  • Roberts HGA. (2007) Bruscambille’s Head and the Location of Early Modernity, Religion, Ethics, and History in the French Long Seventeenth Century / La Religion, la morale, et l'histoire à l'âge classique, Peter Lang, 279-293.
  • Roberts HGA. (2007) La tête de Bruscambille et les métaphores mentales au début du XVIIe siècle, Revue d'Histoire Littéraire de la France, volume 107, no. 3, pages 541-557.


  • Roberts HGA. (2006) Dogs' Tales: Representations of Ancient Cynicism in French Renaissance Texts, Rodopi.
  • Roberts HGA. (2006) Les opérateurs en France au XVIIe siècle : la médecine populaire et les spectacles de rue. [PDF]
  • Roberts HGA. (2006) Du lieu-commun au bon mot: l’exemple des sentences cyniques dans les recueils du XVIe siècle, Bonnes lettres / belles lettres. Actes des colloques du centre d’études et de recherche éditer/interpréter, Université de Rouen, 26 et 27 avril 2000 – 6 et 7 février 2003, Honoré Champion, 49-63.



  • Facques, B., Roberts, H. G. A., Roberts HA. (2003) Reading and Writing The Forbidden: Essays in French Studies, 2001 Group, Reading University.
  • Roberts HGA. (2003) “Leur bouche est en paroles aussi honnêtes que le trou de mon cul”: Cynic Freedom of Speech in French Texts, 1581-1615, Reading and Writing the Forbidden, 2001 Group, 59-70.

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External impact and engagement

I run the Translating Ukrainian War Poetry project with my colleague Professor Helen Vassallo and project partners in Ukraine, Yuliya Musakovska and Olena Huseinova. See

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My cultural teaching options embrace French literature and philosophy, including an introduction to French thought at first year, a second-year course, 'Provoking Thoughts: French Literature and Philosophy from the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century' and a final-year option, 'Philosophers, Prophets and Mystics in French Culture' .

See sample teaching video on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince

Modules taught

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