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Dr Kit Yee Wong

My research interests are on the literature and culture of nineteenth-century France, and particularly the connected themes of myth, illness, evil, and the body within Émile Zola’s novels.

During my Fellowship, in which I am based in the Cultures and Languages department and also aligned with Birkbeck’s Centre for Medical Humanities, I shall work on articles on the entanglement of myth and illness in Zola’s novels. I shall also be working on my first book, based on my PhD thesis.

My academic background has always been within literary studies. My BA was in English and French Literature, with a dissertation on mysticism in the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. My MA at Birkbeck was in Modern French Studies, where my dissertation was on the presence of myth in Émile Zola’s novels. This led to my PhD, also at Birkbeck, titled ‘Myths of Empire, Evil and the Body in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart’, and which was awarded in early 2018. I argue that Zola uses myth as a critical tool to elucidate the perceived immorality of Napoleon III’s Second Empire (1852–70). It allows Zola to write about the nature of evil — an ostensibly mythical and metaphysical notion — expressing it as a material entity invading the human, political and social body, and as sickness. I will be expanding on some of these ideas in my Fellowship.

I have one article published: ‘The Phantasmagorical City: Haussmann’s Paris in Zola’s Nana and L’Assommoir’, in Rethinking the Real — Fiction, Art and Theatre in the Time of Émile Zola: Papers from the London Colloquium 2013, ed. by Valerie Minogue and Patrick Pollard (London: The Émile Zola Society, 2014), pp. 159–66.


Migrating Texts workshops

I am co-organiser of the ‘Migrating Texts’ series, which has been running annually since 2014 at the IMLR (Institute of Modern Languages Research) at Senate House, London. These workshops promote the creative and practical uses of foreign languages, and help postgraduates and ECRs use their linguistic skills within industry and for creative endeavours. I am primarily responsible for the adaptation strand, and two other colleagues look after the subtitling and translation sides. We have just received funding for our sixth workshop in May 2020 on the theme of cultural interchange between Asia and Europe. More details to come on our website, and please follow us on Twitter.

Birkbeck Arts Week (21 May 2019)

  • Public engagement talk: ‘Sickness and Cure in Émile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart Novels.’ Listen to a podcast recording.
Organiser of international conference
‘The Pathological Body from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present: European Literary and Cultural Perspectives’ (IMLR, London, 20 September 2019)


I have been an Associate Lecturer in Birkbeck’s French department and also Associate Tutor on four modules in the English department:

  • Associate Lecturer: ‘Novel Adaptations: Text and Film’ module French department, Birkbeck (October 2017)
  • Associate Tutor, English department, Birkbeck (2015–17)
    • ‘Reading Literature’ module
    • ‘Critical Foundations’ module
    • ‘The Novel’ module
    • ‘Writing London’ module


During my MA and PhD, I worked in publishing. First in a small poetry publisher and now in the London office of an international academic publisher. I am involved in the recently formed French Studies and the Medical Humanities group.

Contact me via email.