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Medieval, Renaissance, and Early Modern Studies

Our Work:

The department is renowned for its outstanding collaborative research in medieval and early modern studies.

The international excellence of individual research is affirmed by the large number of major grants, research partnerships, and collaborations in which we are engaged. This research also supports a large, thriving postgraduate community, with students at MA, PhD, and postdoctoral level drawing on a distinctive programme of training in textual scholarship, archival research, and literary theory to produce cutting-edge work of their own.

Our research includes several major areas of collaborative interest:


Research Interests

Reading, reception, and the exchange of manuscripts, books, and letters

In addition to publications on Middle English poetry, translations from French, and the afterlife of the Chaucerian dream vision, Julia Boffey has authored an important investigation into the relationship between manuscript and printed books c. 1475-1530.

Tamara Atkin has also published on the implications of printing for the circulation of dramatic texts, and is currently working on a history of reading drama before the establishment of commercial playhouses. Warren Boutcher is completing a major study of the early-modern circulation of Michel de Montaigne’s writing, and has written on the history of Renaissance Italian libraries, translation, and the discourses of Renaissance humanism in Europe.

Joad Raymond also has a distinguished international reputation as an expert on the circulation of early modern print, particular of the newsbook. He has written extensively on popular literature, and the interaction between the printed word, politics, and religion. These interests are shared by David Colclough, whose critical work examines early modern religion and rhetoric, the popular press, and freedom of speech in early Stuart England.

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Trade, travel, mapping, and cultural exchange

Jerry Brotton’s best-selling scholarship has examined maps, the Renaissance bazaar, and the acquisition and dispersal of the art collection of King Charles I. Jerry is a sought-after commentator, whose frequent appearances in the media reflect his passion for the contemporary relevance of Renaissance ideas of space, commerce, and artistic exchange. As the presenter of a three-part BBC series on the history of maps in 2010, he also exemplifies the department’s commitment to the public dissemination of research.

Jerry is currently collaborating with Alfred Hiatt and Yossef Rapoport (Department of History, Queen Mary University of London) on a cartography project comparing European and Islamic maps from 1100-1600. Alfred, whose interests include geography and humanism, has published ground-breaking work on the history of the antipodes and the medieval spatial imagination. Like many colleagues in the department he is also interested in manuscript culture, particularly in relation to the production and reception of forged documents. 

Ruth Ahnert’s work offers a new approach to questions of exchange, applying the tools of network analysis to a study of Protestant letter networks in Tudor England. Her research has also focused on the prison as a site of textual production and exchange. Similarly, Andrea Brady’s work on elegy and mourning examines the early modern funeral as the site of textual production and exchange, which she examines using anthropological methods. Andrea shares with Julia Boffey, Joad Raymond, and other colleagues a particular interest in recovering the writing and reading practices of women and other suppressed groups in this period.

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Dramatic writing

Tamara Atkin’s work investigates the relationship between theology and theatricality, and she is also collaborating with Emma Smith (Hertford College, Oxford) on a study of the play book. 

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Editing

David Colclough is a distinguished editor of John Donne (whose sermons he is editing for the Oxford Edition) and Francis Bacon. Joad Raymond is an editor of the Oxford Complete Works of John Milton.

Collaborations

Commencing in the middle ages, our collaborative research on early literature stretches through to the eighteenth century and beyond. Isabel Rivers’s work spans this ‘long early modern’ period, beginning in 1660 and proceeding through the nineteenth century.

Other collaborations are ongoing. Joad Raymond is a leading participant in the News Networks in Early Modern Europe research project, with partners in Venice, Maastrict, Seville, and Rennes and associates in Leuven, Antwerp, and Vienna. News Networks is engaged in developing collaborations and exhibitions with the Royal National Library of Sweden, Stockholm; Marsh’s Library, Dublin; The Austrian National Library, Vienna.

The News Networks and the Shape of Europe conference (supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Network Award) will be hosted by the department in July 2013. This major international gathering will coincide with a conference in memory of Kevin Sharpe, our late distinguished colleague, as well as a conference on Psalm Culture and the Politics of Translation organised by Ruth Ahnert and Tamara Atkin. This conference will consider psalmody from the earliest writings in English to the English Civil War.

The department also has institutional partnerships with the Newberry Library Consortium, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3, and Lambeth Palace Library.

Postgraduate Teaching and Research Culture

The department provides a very successful Early Modern Studies Pathway on the MA in English Studies. The pathway’s distinctive textual studies component and opportunities to participate in collaborative research and exchange have ensured that our students emerge with competitive and highly regarded skills.

We supervise a wide range of doctoral projects, and welcome postdoctoral students. Recent postdoctoral fellows have included visitors from Australia and Ireland.

Staff expertise is enriched by visiting scholars, including Stephanie Trigg (Melbourne, early 2013) and Paul Strohm (Leverhulme Visiting Professor, 2012).

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