School of English


(MA, PhD, London)

My research interests lie in the fields of early modern cultural and literary history. My monograph, Scandal and Reputation at the Court of Catherine de Medici (forthcoming, Ashgate), looks at how the reputations of aristocratic women at the early modern French court were constructed, attacked and defended in a society where literacy was beginning to gain supremacy over orality.

My current project investigates emotional responses to public execution in the early modern period, looking in particular at the use of songs and verse in accounts of crime and execution across Europe. Crime reports were often printed in huge numbers on cheap pamphlets and set to the tune of well-known songs, enabling the reader to sing along to the account of the (often violent) crime and the public execution of the condemned. My research examines how the emotional resonances of a familiar tune could be transferred or subverted in the new version of the song. Central to my work is the idea that singing the news of crime and punishment was a long-standing, pan-European tradition. I’ve begun to widen my research into news-songs on all sorts of topics: natural disasters and wonders, military battles and sieges, and politics and social satire.

Contact Information


Office: W4.E4 (Rutherford)

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

McIlvenna, U. (2016). Scandal and Reputation at the Court of Catherine de Medici. [Online]. USA: Ashgate. Available at:
McIlvenna, U. (2016). The Rich Merchant Man, or, What the Punishment of Greed Sounded Like in Early Modern English Ballads. Huntington Library Quarterly 79:279-299.
McIlvenna, U. (2015). The Power of Music: the Significance of Contrafactum in Execution Ballads. Past & Present [Online] 229:47 -89. Available at:
McIlvenna, U. (2015). When The News Was Sung: Ballads as News Media in Early Modern Europe. Media History [Online]. Available at:
McIlvenna, U. (2014). Medieval and Early Modern Emotional Responses to Death and Dying. Parergon [Online] 31:1-10. Available at:
McIlvenna, U. (2012). Word versus Honor: The Case of Françoise de Rohan vs. Jacques de Savoie. Journal of Early Modern History [Online] 16:315-334. Available at:
Book section
McIlvenna, U. (2016). Singing Songs of Execution in Early Modern Italy. in: Dall'Aglio, S., Rospocher, M. and Richardson, B. eds. Voice and Writing in Early Modern Italian Politics, Religion, and Society. Ashgate.
McIlvenna, U. (2016). Punishment as public spectacle. in: Broomhall, S. ed. Emotions in Early Modern Europe. UK: Routledge.
McIlvenna, U. (2016). Ballads of Death and Disaster: The Role of Song in Early Modern News Transmission. in: Zika, C. and Spinks, J. eds. Disaster, Death and Emotions in the Shadow of the Apocalypse, 1400-1700. Palgrave, pp. 275-294.
McIlvenna, U. (2015). Poison, Pregnancy and Protestants: Gossip and Scandal at the Early Modern French Court. in: Kerr, H. and Walker, C. eds. Fama and her Sisters: Gossip and Rumour in Early Modern Europe. Brepols, pp. 137-160. Available at:
McIlvenna, U. (2013). 'A Stable of Whores'? The 'Flying Squadron' of Catherine de Medici. in: Akkerman, N. and Houben, B. eds. The Politics of Female Households Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe. Brill, pp. 179-208. Available at:
Total publications in KAR: 11 [See all in KAR]
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During the 2016/17 academic year, I will be teaching:

EN694 Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama (Stage 2)

EN692 Early Modern Literature 1500-1700 (Stage 2)

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Research supervision

I am interested in supervising research on the following topics:

  • Crime and punishment in the early modern period
  • Cheap print and media culture in the early modern period
  • Balladry
  • Court studies
  • Scandal, gossip, and rumour
  • History of emotions
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School of English, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NX

The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (0)1227 823054

Last Updated: 04/10/2016