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English and Creative Writing

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Dr Naya Tsentourou

Lecturer in English


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I am a lecturer in Early Modern Literature in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Exeter, having previously taught at the University of Manchester, Lancaster University, and Liverpool John Moores University.

My main research interests include: early modern literature and breath; history of emotions; affect; sighs and groans; devotional writing; bodies and embodiment; material culture

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I am an early modernist with research interests in the body, the history of emotions, affect theory, and representations of breath in 16th and 17th century literature. Relating to breath and affect specifically, I have co-authored the first book on breath in literature (Reading Breath in Literature), and I have by invitation contributed chapters in two important collections of interdisciplinary and international appeal: The Life of Breath in Literature, Culture, and Medicine and Hamlet and Emotions. I am also preparing a book proposal for my next monograph, The Body Inspired: Breath, Emotions, and Ethics in Early Modern England. 


Recent publications 

  1. ‘“Let Lovers Sigh Out the Rest”: Witnessing the Breath in the Early Modern Emotional Body’, in The Life of Breath in Literature, Culture, and Medicine: Classical to Contemporary, edited by David Fuller, Jane Macnaughton, and Corinne Saunders (Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science, and Medicine, 2021), pp. 174-193. 
  2. 'Untimely Breathings in The Rape of Lucrece', Shakespeare (2021): 1-23 DOI:10.1080/17450918.2021.1957995.
  3. ‘Hamlet’s “Spendthrift Sigh”: Emotional Breathing On and Off the Stage’, in Hamlet and Emotions, edited by Paul Megna, Brid Phillips, and R.S. White, (Palgrave, 2019), pp. 161-176.
  4. 'Wasting Breath in Hamlet,' in Reading Breath in Literature, co-authored by Arthur Rose et al. (Palgrave, 2018). Open-access funded by the Wellcome Trust.


Chapter contribution, “Breath in the Closet: Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam in Early Modern Women’s Literatures and Sciences, edited by Lisa Blake and Whitney Sperrazza  

Chapter contribution: “Animation and Fantasy Film in the Allegorical Tradition”, co-authored with Jason Gulya, for The Oxford Handbook of Allegory, edited by David Parry

Chapter contribution: “All Passion Spent: Affective Worlds in Early Modern Closet Drama” in In and Out of the Closet: New Perspectives on Closet Drama, edited by Aurélie Griffin and Sophie Lemercier-Goddard 

Conference presentation: “Breathing Others: Feminist Politics and the Ethics of Breathing in Early Modern English Literature”, Early Modern Women on Politics and Ethics Conference University of Gothenburg, October 5–7, 2023 

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I would welcome enquiries from prospective students interested in early modern literature, esp. religious writing, the history of emotions, bodies and embodiment, air and breath in literature. I am also keen to hear from students interested in engaging with affect theory, the medical humanities, and interdisciplinary research.

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2022 | 2021 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 |



  • Tsentourou P. (2021) '"Let lovers sigh out the rest": Witnessing the Breath in the Early Modern Emotional Body, The Life of Breath, Classical to Contemporary: Literature, Culture, and Medicine, Palgrave.


  • Tsentourou PN. (2019) Hamlet’s ‘Spendthrift Sigh’: Emotional Breathing On and Off the Stage, hamlet and emotions.



  • Nigri L, Tsentourou N. (2017) Forms of Hypocrisy in Early Modern England, Routledge.
  • Tsentourou N. (2017) Milton and the Early Modern Culture of Devotion Bodies at Prayer, Routledge.




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External impact and engagement

Consulted and participated in Radio 4’s programme ‘The Sigh’ with Clare Jenkins (broadcast in December 2016)

Edinburgh International Book Festival Speaker, August 2017

Public Workshop: Breathe It Out, Lostwithiel, July 2019

Shortlisted for BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers Scheme, 2020

Contribution to discipline

2018    ‘Untimely Breathings in The Rape of Lucrece’ seminar paper at the Life of Breath Conference, Durham University, UK (by invitation)

2017    ‘Wasting Breath in Hamlet’ keynote lecture at the Hamlet and Emotions Conference, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia, Centre for the History of Emotions (by invitation)

2017    ‘Learning to Breathe in Prayer: Herbert and Irigaray’, seminar paper as part of a panel ‘On Breath’ for the American Association of Comparative Literature Conference, Leiden, The Netherlands

2015    ‘Herbert’s Sighs and Groans’, seminar paper at The Henry Vaughan Colloquium, Brecon Beacon Wales, (by invitation)

2014    ‘Sleeves, socks, and robes: Inventorying Linen in Milton’s Prose’, mini-Milton Colloquium, Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Exeter, UK (by invitation)

2014    ‘“The ghost of a linen decency”: Fears of the Material and the Immaterial in Milton’s Prose’, John Rylands Seminar Series on Print and Materiality in the Early Modern World, Manchester, UK (by invitation)

2014    ‘Groaning Bodies in Early Modern Texts’, Manchester Renaissance Literature Forum, Chethams Library, Manchester, UK (by invitation)


Contributor and speaker in BBC Radio 4, 'The Sigh', December 2016

Description from the BBC website: Award-winning poet Imtiaz Dharker explores the history, cultural significance, physiology and psychology of sighing. She considers its role in literature, music, religion and life. Contributors - social and cultural historian Hannah Newton of the University of Reading, English Literature scholar Naya Tsentourou (who's an expert on sighing and groaning in religious texts), classical pianist Peter Hill, and cognitive neuro-scientist Lynne Barker from Sheffield Hallam University.

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In addition to the modules listed below, I contribute masterclasses to the Renaissance pathway modules for the MA in English Literary Studies.

I am a certified Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Modules taught

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