Brescia Assistant Professor, Dr. Heather Kirk to explore the feminine power of rumour with SSHRC Insight Development Grant

July 25, 2019

London, ON – In Early Modern tragedies, gossip and slander are regularly considered a feminine practice. But, does this gossip and slander hold social power and currency? A 2019 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant will allow Brescia Assistant Professor, Dr. Heather Kirk to explore this theory and the representation of women in Early Modern tragedies.

Dr. Kirk’s research, entitled “Notre sexe est fort vindicatif: la parole féminine dans la tragédie française pré-académique (1610-1640).” [“Our sex is extremely vindictive: Feminine Expression in French Pre-Academic Tragedies (1610-1640)”], will examine tragic heroines and their malicious behaviour as represented in early seventeenth Century French tragedies. A particular focus will also be placed on examining how women in Early Modern tragedies use slander, rumour and their networks to fortify their own social positions and as a way to protect their own reputations by demolishing another’s.

“We haven’t changed that much since the seventeenth Century,” explains Dr. Kirk. She goes on to say, “In today’s society, we see various examples of women being represented as vindictive gossips, who seek to undermine each other through rumor and backstabbing. In order for Brescia’s students – and society at large – to understand how these stereotypes persist, we need to examine the historical sources.”

Commencing in September 2019, two Brescia undergraduate students and one doctoral student will work under the guidance of Dr. Kirk to analyze the stereotyping of women as malicious gossipers in a variety of French literature texts, published between the years 1600 -1640. From their research, a series of case studies will be published over the next two years, culminating with a final article and public website outlining their findings. Students in Brescia’s FR4114F – Senior Seminar in French Literature will also be engaged in and mentored through this subject in the 2019-2020 school year.

“We are delighted to see Dr. Kirk’s important and timely research being regarded by the federal granting agency,” says Brescia’s Vice-Principal and Academic Dean, Dr. Lauretta Frederking. “This Grant not only highlights some of the outstanding research being explored at Brescia, but will also help heighten the Brescia student experience and challenge our students to think critically about stereotypes and the power of rumour.”

On July 17th, 2019, the federal granting agency announced the recipients of the 2019 SSHRC grants. The SSHRC Insight Granting Program supports research that builds knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world.

For more information about the SSHRC, please visit:

Dr. Heather Kirk
Above: 2019 SSHRC Insight Development Grant recipient, Brescia Assistant Professor, Dr. Heather Kirk



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Brescia University College, Canada’s women’s university college, is affiliated with Western University. The 1,500 women registered as either full- or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in the Schools of Behavioural & Social Sciences, Food & Nutritional Sciences, Humanities and Leadership & Social Change in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic University College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room, at .