Personal profile

Personal profile

Kate’s PhD examines representations of clothing in the Holocaust literature of Charlotte Delbo, one of the most brilliant and challenging authors to have survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and Ravensbrück. Her thesis makes close-readings of garments worn by victims, in particular a raspberry silk negligee in a Gestapo holding camp in Paris; the concentration camp striped prisoner uniform; a mauve silk dress received after repatriation; and children’s socks observed at Auschwitz-Birkenau and during the Paris Massacre of Algerians on 17 October 1961. Kate’s thesis argues that reading Delbo’s representations of garments brings to light hidden experiences of the Nazi Occupation of France, deportation to the concentration camps, the Holocaust’s legacy on survivors, and the Algerian War (1954–62). As a woman, political prisoner and non-Jew, Delbo counts among groups under-represented in the predominantly male, Jewish Holocaust canon and as part of the only convoy to Auschwitz-Birkenau of 230 female political prisoners from France, her representations of clothing bring to mind experiences that differ from most other deportees’. In addition, Kate's readings of Delbo's clothing representations uncover other marginalised groups, forgotten individuals, unacknowledged hierarchies and state cover-ups. Moreover, Delbo’s depictions of the materiality of the garments suggest the challenge of representing the unsayable, and the implications of absence, death, memory and trauma within her figurative language reach towards expressing the ineffable by resonating with the affect of trauma and the pain of memory.

Clothing is a useful new lens to study Holocaust literature and experiences of trauma and memory. Analysis of representations of clothing contributes to critical discourse about wider perspectives on the Holocaust, extends scholars’ understanding of Holocaust testimony, deepens interpretations of fashion theory and applies scholarship on everyday life to the extreme environment of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Kate’s methodology both opens up new interpretations of Delbo’s most famous texts and widens the corpus of her works that are studied by analysing unpublished and previously little-known texts and making passsages from them available to anglophone scholars through her own translations.

Education/Academic qualification

MA English, Royal Holloway, University of London

Award Date: 31 Aug 2020

French with German, BA (Hons), King's College London

Award Date: 31 Aug 1985


  • French literature
  • Prose
  • Poetry
  • Theatre
  • French society & culture
  • Auschwitz
  • Ravensbrück
  • Concentration Camps
  • Cultural History
  • Memory Studies
  • Algerian War