CEMS Member Spotlight: Una McIlvenna

CEMS Member Spotlight: Una McIlvenna

by Centre for Early Modern Studies

Dr Una McIlvenna is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow 2023-2027 and Senior Lecturer in English. Her research interests lie in the fields of early modern cultural and literary history. Una is particularly interested in the early modern and nineteenth-century pan-European tradition of singing the news, and the history of crime and punishment, and she is also a court studies specialist. 

Her most recent monograph, Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1500-1900 (OUP, 2022) explores the phenomenon of the execution ballad, songs that spread the news of condemned criminals and their often ghastly ends. This is accompanied by her website Execution Ballads which features recordings of some of these songs. The book won the 2023 Katharine Briggs Book Award from the Folklore Society and was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s General History Prize. Una has also published articles on news-singing in Past & PresentRenaissance StudiesMedia History, Parergon, Huntington Library Quarterly, and Quaerendo, and she is a co-founder of the international Song Studies Network. 

Una has a PhD in Renaissance Studies from Queen Mary University of London, and has taught at the Universities of Sydney, Melbourne, Kent and Queen Mary. Her first book, Scandal and Reputation at the Court of Catherine de Medici (Routledge, 2016) explores the real-life scandals that rocked the court of Catherine de Medici, the queen mother of France during the Wars of Religion. It debunks the myth of Catherine’s ‘flying squadron’ and shows how women have been collectively slandered for centuries.

Una’s recent activities include the publication of her first article in Spanish, ‘El sonido de la muerte inminente: las baladas de ajusticiados en Europa (siglos XVI-XIX),’ (translated by Juan Gomis Coloma) in a special edition of Boletín de Literatura Oral, and an interview for This Week in History on ABC Australia Radio National on the execution of Charles I in 1649. She was also awarded a Paul Oskar Kristeller Research Fellowship from the Renaissance Society of America for her project “Hatred in Print: The Pamphlet Explosion on the Death of Concino Concini, Marquis d’Ancre”. The fellowship will fund a trip to the archives in Paris. 

You can read more about Una’s work on her website.