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Professor Katharine Murphy

Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature


01392 724430

Prof. Katharine Murphy specialises in early twentieth-century Spanish fiction, Modernism and Comparative Literature.

Katharine's most recent book Bodies of Disorder: Gender and Degeneration in Baroja and Blasco Ibáñez (Cambridge: Legenda, 2017) is published by Legenda's Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Cultures: The book offers an original analysis of the ways in which late nineteenth-century medical discourses and cultural myths of degeneration focused on reproduction and the female body, and aligns the literary representations of these ideas in the works of two Spanish authors: one canonical, one bestselling.

Katharine's first book, Re-reading Pío Baroja and English Literature (2004), applied a comparative approach to early twentieth-century Spanish and English prose fiction in order to highlight the central participation of Baroja and other Spanish authors in the development of European Modernism. 

With two colleagues, Katharine co-organised the 60th Anniversary Conference of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland hosted by the University of Exeter in April 2015. The conference was supported by the Spanish Embassy and Santander Universities, with the attendance of the Spanish Ambassador:

She is currently developing research on literary representations of the embodied subject, and recently participated in two symposia: 'The Body and the Built Environment' at the University of Durham (June 2019), and 'The Pathological Body: European Literary and Cultural Perspectives' at the IMLR (September 2019).  

From September 2021, Katharine will be an Academic Lead and member of Department Strategy Group in Modern Languages and Cultures. She has had a range of leadership roles, including Senior Tutor (2018-2021), Internationalisation Officer for Modern Languages (2018), Acting Director of the MA in Global Literatures and Cultures (2018), Programme Director in Hispanic Studies (2013-2016), and previously Year Abroad and Exams in Hispanic Studies. She has been an External Examiner for the Department of HiPLA Studies at the University of Bristol for 3 years (2018 to present).

Katharine was appointed by the University of Exeter in 2001. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2006 and Associate Professor in 2018. Her teaching focuses on twentieth-century Spanish literature and culture.

Research interests

Gender and Degeneration 

Katharine's book Bodies of Disorder: Gender and Degeneration in Baroja and Blasco Ibáñez  (Cambridge: Legenda, 2017) presents original readings of gender and degenerationism in the works of Pío Baroja and Vicente Blasco Ibáñez as case studies of canonical and popular fiction. The volume pays particular attention to the assimilation and modification in Spain of the theories of Bénédict Morel, Cesare Lombroso and Max Nordau, and counters existing critical assumptions about each author's adherence to the cultural myths of degeneration and literary Naturalism. The book was published by Legenda / MHRA, Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Cultures:

Review: ‘Murphy highlights the substantial points of comparison between the two authors, despite the hostility between them and their very different journeys through the literary canon. Taken in its entirety, this book deftly sets about dismantling quite a number of critical distinctions and commonplaces... This will be a valuable book for anyone working on the Spanish novel, discourses of degeneration across Europe, cultural studies, and on the dynamics of female literacy and agency.' Bulletin of Spanish Studies, 96.9 (2019), 1553-55.

Spanish Modernism and Comparative Literature

This project aims to illuminate the ongoing critical reassessment of Spanish Modernist authors of the early-twentieth century within a pan-European and international context, through the comparison of Spanish and English authors as literary counterparts across borders. Extending her earlier work on Spanish Modernism, Katharine has recently published an article on transnational paradigms and a comparative appoach to the novels of Baroja and Joseph Conrad:  

Katharine's previous research takes a comparative approach to the early-twentieth-century Spanish novel, and seeks to reframe the participation of Spain in mainstream European culture during this period. Her first monograph Re-reading Pío Baroja and English Literature (2004) drew close comparisons between Baroja and the novels of his contemporaries in England and Ireland, such as Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, and others, in order to demonstrate the participation of Baroja, alongside other Spanish authors, in the incipient development of European Modernism. A major review stated that the book ‘merits the attention of all scholars of Modernism, and not just of the "Peninsular" variety: for its important contribution to the revision - and more importantly renovation - of our critical awareness regarding Pío Baroja'. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 84. 3 (2007), 421-24.

Post-war Spanish Fiction

Project in progress on the connections between early-twentieth-century regenerationism and post-war Spanish fiction, with a particular interest in Camilo José Cela, Luis Martín-Santos and Carmen Martín Gaite.

Visual Culture and the Spanish Modernist Novel

Focuses on ekphrasis and the connections between visual culture and the early-twentieth-century Spanish novel. This research investigates the spatialisation of prose narrative through the incorporation of painting and other visual media, as well as the interactions between the arts, in early-twentieth-century Spain. 

Research collaborations

Collaborative workshop in 2014 with Dr Caragh Wells, University of Bristol, on Spanish fiction and culture.This project was supported by funding from the Bristol Institute for Research in the Arts and Humanities (BIRTHA) and Santander Universities.

Research supervision

Katharine welcomes enquires about postgraduate supervision in the following areas: Spanish and European Modernism; Comparative Literature (particularly the early-twentieth-century Spanish and English novel); Spain and the fin de siglo; gender and Spanish literature; Naturalism, medical discourses and pathology; visual culture and the early-twentieth-century novel; post-war Spanish fiction.      

Research students

Postgraduate Supervision:

  • Second supervisor for PhD on 'Intrahistoria, regeneración e identidad nacional ayer y hoy', Juan Manuel García Precedo, 2009-2013.
  • Co-supervision of PhD on ‘Social and Cultural Transformations in 1960s Madrid' (AHRC-funded), Alex Cattell, 2005-2008.

PhD Examiner for Natalia Font, 'Visual Elective Affinities in Marosa de Giorgio and Angela Carter' (Exeter, 2013) and José Carlos Tenreiro Prego, 'The Female Gothic in Emilia Pardo Bazán' (Exeter, 2014)

Other information



External impact and engagement

Invited contribution to the inaugural number of a new journal published in collaboration with the Casa-Museo Blasco Ibáñez and City Council of Valencia. The launch of this project in 2012 was commissioned as part of the Museum’s academic activities relating to Blasco Ibáñez, and capitalises on renewed interest in the author in Spain in recent years:

Presented research on Pío Baroja to members of the University of the Third Age (U3A) at Newton St Cyres, Devon, in July 2014, as part of pathway to impact.


Contribution to discipline

Member of the Editorial Assistants Board of the Journal of War and Culture Studies (Intellect). Reviews articles and books for Bulletin of Spanish Studies, Bulletin of Hispanic StudiesJournal of Iberian and Latin American Studies, Modern Language Review, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos and Tamesis (Boydell and Brewer).

Co-organiser for the Sixtieth Anniversary Conference of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland, hosted by the University of Exeter in 2015. The event was attended by the Spanish Ambassador, the Spanish Minister Counsellor for Cultural and Scientific Affairs, and 160 delegates.


Katharine has been commended by the University for teaching quality, good practice and high student ratings for her modules via Accelerate and Mace. She has previously received nominations for Innovative Teaching in the Guild Teaching Awards.

She offers a range of undergraduate modules on twentieth-century Spanish literature and culture, with particular emphasis on interdisciplinary learning. Her teaching incudes Spanish language, translation and grammar at all levels. Katharine is also a Personal Tutor for around 30 undergraduate students each year.

For Katharine's Case Study interview on multi-disciplinary learning for the University's Education Strategy, see:

She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Modules taught