Kevin Killeen



I received my PhD. from Birkbeck, University of London and, before coming to York, lectured at Birkbeck, London, the University of Reading and the University of Leeds. I have research interests in early modern science and intellectual history, the uses of the Bible in the seventeenth century and poetics and rhetoric, and am currently working on a study of the early modern apophatic. My most recent book, The Political Bible in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2016), looks at the political uses of the biblical kings and the Old Testament in the renaissance, and I have published work on this topic in The Journal of the History of Ideas and The Huntington Library Quarterly, as well as editing, with Helen Smith and Rachel Willie, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700 (Oxford, 2015) which won the Roland H Bainton Prize, 2016. I co-edited with Liz Oakley-Brown a volume of The Journal of the Northern Renaissance 2017, Scrutinizing Surfaces.

I am the author of Biblical Scholarship, Science and Politics in Early Modern England: Thomas Browne and the Thorny Place of Knowledge (Ashgate, 2009), which won the CCUE Book Prize and which was shortlisted for the US History of Science Society Watson Davis Prize, and co-editor, together with Peter Forshaw (Amsterdam), of Biblical Exegesis and the Emergence of Science in the Early Modern Era (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

I have edited a one-volume work of Sir Thomas Browne: Oxford 21st Century Authors (Oxford, 2014) and am one of the editors of the new eight-volume Complete Works of Thomas Browne, commissioned by Oxford University Press and supported by an AHRC grant, under the general editorship of Claire Preston (Queen Mary). This involves editing Browne’s labyrinthine and encyclopaedic Pseudodoxia Epidemica, together with Jessica Wolfe (North Carolina) and Harriet Phillips (Queen Mary).

I am the organiser of the Thomas Browne Seminar, an annual symposium which examines mid seventeenth-century the history of science and scholarship, religious and antiquarian thought, natural history and the history of trivia. Previous meetings have been held at Birkbeck and Leeds. I have organised conferences on Poetics and Prose theory, on Time in Early Modern thought, Technology and Invention in the seventeenth century, Biblical Exegesis and a large scale event on The Bible in the Seventeenth Century. I am on the council of the Society for Renaissance Studies



My research looks at English Renaissance literature and the intellectual climate of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It focuses on the religious cultures of the period and the centrality of the Bible in early modern thought, in the history of reading and in the political language of the era. I came to York with a Leverhulme fellowship, to research a work entitled The Political Bible in Early Modern England, which looks at the cultural uses of the biblical kings and the Old Testament in the Renaissance. The work explores the scriptural ambivalence to and suspicion of monarchy and constitutes a reception history of the biblical texts on kingship across the seventeenth century. The study also provides an account of the biblical idiom of politics in the era.

Earlier work has addressed the religious, philosophical and political landscape of mid-century England, centred on the writings of Thomas Browne, a scholar and scientist with a bewildering range of interests. The book pays particular attention to his encyclopaedia of error, Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646), and traces the intellectual conditions in which such disparate subject matter could cohere. I am the co-editor of The Word and The World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science (Palgrave, 2007), which addresses the curious engagement between biblical interpretation and natural philosophy in the intellectual history in the early modern era.

I teach courses in the Early Renaissance, Later Renaissance and Restoration Literature, on Milton, on Poetry and Poetics, and the Bible and Literature. At MA level I teach early modern Humanism, Shakespeare, and a module of intellectual history, Theories of Everything in Early Modern England, which addresses science and religion, encyclopaedism, the diffusion of the classical philosophy in early modern thought and a good deal of poetry (along with the hubris of doing all these things at once).


I would be happy to supervise research on:

  • Early modern poetry
  • Intellectual History
  • Seventeenth century religion
  • Early modern science and religion
  • Classical reception in the Renaissance
  • The Bible
  • Thomas Browne
  • John Milton
  • Seventeenth century political thought
  • Early modern prose


Selected publications

Scrutinizing Surfaces, ed. Liz Oakley-Brown and Kevin Killeen, The Journal of the Northern Renaissance 2017 

The Political Bible in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2016) 

Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700, ed. Kevin Killeen, Helen Smith and Rachel Willie (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Thomas Browne: Oxford 21st Century Authors, ed. Kevin Killeen (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Biblical Scholarship, Science and Politics in Early Modern England: Thomas Browne and The Thorny Place of Knowledge (Ashgate, 2009).  
Awarded the Council for College and University English (CCUE) 2010 Book Prize.

The Word and the World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science, ed. Kevin Killeen and Peter Forshaw (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Chapters and Articles

‘The Apophatic Garden of Cyrus: Thomas Browne's fleeting God’, Studies in Philology 114:4 (2017)

‘Microscopy, Surfaces and the Unknown in Seventeenth Century Natural Philosophy (from Lucretius to Margaret Cavendish)’ in Journal of the Northern Renaissance, vol. 8 (2017), ed. Liz Oakley-Brown and Kevin Killeen, online

‘Scrutinizing Surfaces in Early Modern Thought: An Introduction’, with Liz Oakley-Brown in Journal of the Northern Renaissance, vol. 8 (2017)

'Appendices' in Harriet Phillips and Claire Williams (eds), Handbook of Editing Early Modern Texts (Ashgate, 2017)

‘The Book of Kings’, Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception (De Greuter, 2017)

'The Bible and Renaissance Literature', in Timothy Beal (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception (De Greuter,2017)

'"My exquisite copies for action": Lying with the Bible in early modern England', in Oxford Handbook of the Bible in England, ed. Killeen, Smith and Willie (Oxford, 2015)

'All other Bookes...are but Notes upon this': The early modern Bible', with Helen Smith, in Oxford Handbook of the Early Modern Bible, ed. Helen Smith and Rachel Willie (Oxford, 2015)

'The Part and the whole: Architectronics of knowledge in Seventeenth Century Thought' in Scientiae: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World (Pickering and Chatto, 2015)

'Hezekiah Woodward and William Cavendish', Notes and Queries 62.2 (2015): 257-258

'"When all things shall confesse their ashes": Science and soul in Thomas Browne',  in Andrew Hadfield (ed.), The Oxford Handbook to English Prose, c.1500-1640 (Oxford University Press, 2013)

'Immethodical, Incoherent, Unadorned: Style and the Early Modern Bible', in Andrew Hadfield (ed.), The Oxford Handbook to English Prose, c.1500-1640 (Oxford University Press, 2013)

'Hanging up kings: The Political Bible in Early Modern England', Journal of History of Ideas (2011), 72:4 (2011): 549-570

'Veiled Speech: Preaching, Politics and Scriptural Typology', in Peter McCullough, Hugh Adlington and Emma Rhatigan (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Early Modern Sermon (Oxford University Press, 2011)

'Chastising with Scorpions: Reading the Old Testament in Early Modern England', The Huntington Library Quarterly 75:3 (2010): 491-506 – special issue: 'The Textuality of Reading in Early Modern England', eds. Jennifer Richards and Fred Schurink

'Plague and Popular Anger in Early Modern England' in Matthew Dimmock and Andrew Hadfield (eds), Literature and Popular Culture in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2009)

'The Politics of Painting' in Reid Barbour and Claire Preston (eds.), The World Proposed: Sir Thomas Browne Quatercentenary Essays (Oxford University Press, 2009)

'Politics and Memorial: Remembering and Forgetting in Browne’s Repertorium' in Kathryn Murphy and Richard Todd (eds), 'A man very well studyed': Thomas Browne in context (Leiden: Brill, 2009)

'"The doctor quarrels with some pictures": exegesis and animals in Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica', Early Science and Medicine 12:1 (2007), 1-27.  Recipient of Council of University Deans Prize for Interdisciplinary Study

'Duckweed and the Word of God: Seminal Principles in Thomas Browne' in Kevin Killeen and Peter Forshaw (eds), The Word and the World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

'"Three pounds and fifteen shillings; the inconsiderable salary of Judas": seventeenth-century exegesis, cultural historiography and Thomas Browne's Pseudodoxia Epidemica', Renaissance Studies 20:4 (2006), 502-519.  Recipient of the Renaissance Studies Essay Prize, 2007

'"A Nice and Philosophical account of the origin of all things": Accommodation in Burnet’s Sacred Theory and Milton’s Paradise Lost', Milton Studies 46 (2006), 106-22


Pseudodoxia Epidemica as vols 2 and 3 with Jessica Wolfe (North Carolina), in The Oxford Works of Thomas Browne, gen. ed. Claire Preston (Oxford University Press), in preparation


Contact details

Dr Kevin Killeen
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
Y010 5DD

Tel: 44 1904 323363