Skip to main content

Staff profiles

Photo of Professor Katharine Murphy

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 is currently researching representations of ill-health, bodies and minds in Spanish literary fiction. She has been awarded an AHRC RD&E Fellowship for 2023-2025 on 'Reading Bodies: Narrating Illness in Spanish and European Literatures and Cultures 1870s to 1960s' (AH/X01133X/1). She has recently published an article on abulia in Baroja's fiction in Hispanic Review (2023) and an article on Blasco Ibáñez for a Special Collection on 'The Pathological Body' in Open Library of Humanities (2022).  Her forthcoming publications include an entry on Baroja's Camino de perfección / Road to Perfection in Literary Journeys (Modern Books). She is an affiliate member of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.

Katharine's book Bodies of Disorder: Gender and Degeneration in Baroja and Blasco Ibáñez (2017) is published by Legenda's Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Cultures. The book analyses 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. Her first book, Re-reading Pío Baroja and English Literature (Peter Lang, 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.  

Katharine has been awarded Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. Her leadership experience includes Senior Academic Leader and member of the Department Leadership Team (2021-2023), Director of the MA in Global Literatures and Cultures (2021-2023), Senior Tutor (2018-2021), Internationalisation Officer for Modern Languages (2018), and Programme Director in Hispanic Studies (2013-2016; 2022). She completed Aurora women's leadership training in Cardiff in 2018, and was an External Examiner for the Department of HiPLA Studies at the University of Bristol (2018-2022).

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

Reading Illness

Katharine is currently researching the literary representation of bodies and minds in early 20th-century Spain, and holds an AHRC RD&E Fellowship on 'Reading Bodies: Narrating Illness in Spanish and European Literatures and Cultures (1870s to 1960s)', 2023 to 2025. She has recently published an article on 'Abulia and the Language of Pathology in Baroja's Early Fiction' with Hispanic Review (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023) and an article on 'The Contagious Effects of Rural Violence in Blasco Ibáñez's La barraca' for a Special Collection on 'The Pathological Body', Open Library of Humanities (2002).   

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 published an article (2020) 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.

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

Reviewer of 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). Grant reviewer for Fund for Scientific Research-FNRS, Brussels. 

External Examiner for HiPLA (undergraduate programme), University of Bristol (2018-2022). 

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 is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. From 2021-2023, she was Director of the MA in Global Literatures and Cultures, and convened the core modules SMLM235 Key Concepts for Global Literatures and Cultures and SMLM113 Dissertation.

She offers a range of undergraduate modules on twentieth-century Spanish literature and culture, with particular emphasis on interdisciplinary learning. These include a final-year module, MLS3112 Spanish Modernists: Narratives of Identity, Gender and Nation and MLS2160 Fiction in Post-war Spain: Voices of Conformity and Subversion. Her teaching incudes Spanish language, translation and grammar at all levels. Katharine is also a Personal Tutor for around 30 undergraduate and postgraduate students each year.

She has been commended for teaching quality, good practice and strong student ratings for her modules. She has previously received nominations for Innovative Teaching in the Guild Teaching Awards.

Modules taught

 Edit profile