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Medieval and Renaissance Research Group

An overview of research highlights, projects and activity within the Medieval and Renaissance research group:

  • Successful record in obtaining AHRC awards and Leverhulme fellowships
  • 2007 Leverhulme Prize awarded to Nicholas McDowell for his work on John Milton
  • £252,000 grant awarded in 2008 for Mysticism, Myth and Celtic Nationalism project
  • AHRC funded project to create electronic edition of early Stuart libels
  • Research interests include the relationship between politics and literature; Milton; religion and literary culture, cultural geography; literature and domestic travel in early modern England; reception of Virgil in the Civil War polemic; Shakespeare in the English theatrical memoir, and English writing and the Ottoman Empire
  • Conferences held on subjects such as the Medieval Mystical Tradition, Syon Abbey and its Books, Politics and Poetry in Early Stuart England and Retelling the Renaissance
  • Links to the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Centre for Early Modern Studies

Pascale Aebischer

AHRC Research Fellowship award (£64,000): 'Beyond Shakespeare: Screening Early Modern Drama' (2011-12).

Karen Edwards

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (£34,000) for the project ‘Political Animals in Early Modern England’ (awarded 2009).

Marion Gibson

AHRC grant (£252,000) for ‘Mysticism, Myth and Celtic Nationalism’ project (awarded 2008).

Johanna Harris

In 2013, Johanna was James M. Osborn research fellow at Beinecke Library, Yale University (April), and Folger Shakespeare Library research fellow, Washington D.C. (Summer 2013).

Eddie Jones

British Academy Small Research Grant for the Hermits and Anchorites Project (2009)

Elliot Kendall

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (£33,000), for the project ‘Imagining Aristocratic Power’ (2010-11)

Nicholas McDowell

Professor McDowell was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize (£70,000) in 2007.

Ayesha Mukherjee

AHRC Research Network grant: ‘Early Modern Discourses of Environmental Change and Sustainability’ (2010-11)

Edward Paleit

British Academy Small Research Grant for research on the scholar-pedagogue Thomas Farnaby (2011-12).

Andrew McRae

AHRC Research Grant (£399,000): ‘The Stuart Successions Project’ (2012-15). The project team includes Dr Paulina Kewes (Co-Investigator, University of Oxford), Dr John West (Associate Research Fellow) and Anna-Marie Linnell (PhD student).

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (£26,000), ‘English literature and domestic travel, 1500-1700’, (2007-08

Andrew McRae and Philip Schwyzer

AHRC Research Grant (£385,000): The Poly-Olbion Project (2013-16). The project team includes Prof. McRae (PI), Prof. Schwyzer (CI), Dr Sjoerd Levelt and Dr Daniel Cattell (Associate Research Fellows), and project partners Flash of Splendour Arts.

Philip Schwyzer

ERC Starting Grant (€1,261,000): ‘The Past in its Place: Histories of Memory in England and Wales’ (2012-16). The project team includes nine researchers from English, History, Geography, and Archaeology at the Universities of Exeter and Chester. Dr Paul Bryant-Quinn is Associate Research Fellow.

Leverhulme Research Project (£209,000): ‘Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in Sacred Space’ (2011-14). The project team includes Prof. Howard Williams (Archaeology, Chester) and Dr Naomi Howell (Associate Research Fellow).

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (£30,500): ‘Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III’ (2008)

The research culture of Medieval and Renaissance studies in English is enlivened by two fortnightly seminar series run by the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Centre for Early Modern Studies, as well as by Visiting Speakers in the English Department and events such as the annual Gareth Roberts Memorial Lecture. The Early Modern Reading Group (internal only), organized by postgraduates in English and History, meets fortnightly throughout the year.

Forthcoming conferences and events include

  • A symposium on Death, Burial and Commemoration in England and Wales, 1-2 November, 2013 (for further information contact Naomi Howell or Philip Schwyzer)
  • The Gareth Roberts Memorial Lecture, delivered by Professor David Norbrook (Oxford), 10 March 2014
  • A workshop on Classical Reception in Early Modern England, hosted by the Centre for Early Modern Studies, May 2014 (for further information contact Edward Paleit or Henry Power)
  • A symposium commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the death of Derek Jarman, summer 2014 (for further information contact Pascale Aebischer)
  • The Eleventh International Milton Symposium, 20-24 July, 2015 (for further information contact Karen Edwards)

Samir al-Jasim

Supervised by Philip Schwyzer, Samir al-Jasim’s thesis explores the application of “Possible Worlds Theory” to the rhetorical culture of early modern England and the plays of William Shakespeare.

James Alsop

“Playing dead: ‘living death’ in early modern theatre.” Supervised by Pascale Aebischer, this project examines conceptions of ‘living death’ in early modern England – specifically its theatre, which was a veritable lacuna of the almost-living and the not-quite-dead.

Anna Blaen

Co-supervised by Hugh Roberts (French) and Karen Edwards, as part of the Gossip and Nonsense: Excessive Language in Renaissance France and England project, Anna Blaen is looking at the use of euphemism, both in theory and practice, in early modern French and English texts. One of her main questions is what was scandalous to say in this period, and how did people get round this and say it anyway with euphemism. The texts she is examining range from medical (such as Joubert's) to literary (such as Middleton's and Jonson's) to rhetorical and theoretical (such as Montaigne's and Erasmus').

Charlotte Campton

Supervised by Andrew McRae, Charlotte Campton is researching the representation of inns and taverns in early modern drama.

Callan Davies

Supervised by Pascale Aebischer, Callan's thesis (funded by the AHRC) focusses on the practical and material "use" of moral images in Jacobean drama.  He is interested in the relationship of images and material objects/texts to abstract ethical ideas; how and why is moral thought made practical on the early modern stage?

Anna-Marie Linnell

Supervised by Andrew McRae and supervised by Andrew McRae and Paulina Kewes (Oxford) Anna-Marie’s project looks the representation of the Stuart consorts over the course of the seventeenth century. More precisely, she is interested in how the consort's image was used to form ideas about the state. As a participant in the Stuart Successions Project, she focuses on texts that were produced when a new monarch came to the throne. How do the stories spun about the consorts at moments of succession reflect on the way that contemporaries wanted that succession to be shaped?

Charlotte Markey

Supervised by Pascale Aebischer and Edward Paleit, Charlotte Markey works on the influence of humanism on Tudor and early Stuart drama with a specific focus on humanist attitudes to the economy as portrayed on the stage. How did the humanist revival of classical and patristic texts affect the movement's response to the transition from feudalism and capitalism during this period and how was drama an essential tool for humanist intellectuals to explore these issues?

Alanna Skuse

‘Constructing cancer in early modern England’: Alanna Skuse’s inter-disciplinary research project (funded by the Wellcome Trust) examines the way in which early modern medics, patients and lay people thought and wrote about cancer, focussing on the examination of medical and instructional texts as literary artefacts. This project is co-supervised by Andrew McRae in the department of English, and Sarah Toulalan in Medical History.

Min-ju Wu

Supervised by Philip Schwyzer, Min-ju Wu’s research focuses on the form of Shakespeare’s late plays in their Jacobean political context.

Richard Wells

Richard's research combines historical and structural analysis to investigate the semantic field of the apple as object, image and idea, as it has developed over millennia of cultivation: embedding persistent patterns of experience, perception and imagination in the common culture and in Western literature and art. The apple has acquired the traditional attributes of the sacred fruit in the religious mythologies of ancient Europe, and also functions as the Model Object for exploring the dialectics of sense-experience and knowledge, mediating reality and illusion, nature and culture. Historical transformations studied in detail include the deployment of apple imagery in England from 'The Great Instauration' to the early Royal Society, establishing new contexts for the story of Newton and the apple. 

MA English Literary Studies: Renaissance Studies

The Department of English at Exeter has world-leading expertise in the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. From Elizabethan rogue pamphlets to royal progresses, and from religious rapture to libertine decadence, the texts encountered on this pathway reflect the wide-ranging strengths of the research group.

Programme structure

Students opting for the MA in English Studies with Renaissance Studies Pathway will choose two of the available early modern literature modules, two other modules (which might be in medieval literature, eighteenth century literature, or early modern history), and complete a Dissertation in the area.

For more information including entrance requirements and how to apply, visit MA English Literary Studies: Renaissance Studies.

Professor Pascale Aebischer

Professor Pascale Aebischer works on Shakespeare, feminist performance studies and Jacobean drama. She is the author of Screening Early Modern Drama: Beyond Shakespeare (Cambridge University Press, 2013), completed with the aid of an AHRC Research Fellowship, and co-editor with Kathryn Prince of Performing Early Modern Drama Today (CUP, 2012). Previous publications include Jacobean Drama: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and Shakespeare’s Violated Bodies: Stage and Screen Performance (CUP, 2004). She is the editor of Shakespeare Bulletin.

Professor Karen Edwards

Professor Karen Edwards’ research interests include John Milton; early modern literature and science; and the Bible and literature. She is currently working on the culture of vituperative insult in Civil War polemics, a project developing from her first book, Milton and the Natural World: Science and Poetry in ‘Paradise Lost’ (CUP, 1999), and her ongoing work on the presence of political, satiric, and ‘scientific’ animals in the works of Milton and other early modern writers. Her Milton’s Reformed Animals: An Early Modern Bestiary appeared in a series of special issues of Milton Quarterly in 2008-9.

Professor Marion Gibson

Professor Marion Gibson has written extensively on texts connected by an interest in the supernatural, magic and witchcraft in literature, especially popular literature. Her most recent books include Imagining the Pagan Past: Gods and Goddesses in Literature and History since the Dark Ages (Routledge, 2013), completed with the aid of a major AHRC grant for a project focusing on ‘Mysticism, Myth and ‘Celtic’ Nationalism’. She is also author, with Jo Esra, of Shakespeare's Demonology: An Arden Shakespeare Dictionary (Bloomsbury, 2013); Possession, Puritanism and Print (Pickering & Chatto, 2006) and Witchcraft Myths in American Culture (Routledge, 2007).

Dr Johanna Harris

Dr Johanna Harris is interested in the literary, religious and intellectual culture of early modern England, particularly English puritanism, literature of dissent, letter writing networks, and women’s writing. She is working on a monograph, Puritan Epistolary Community in Early Modern England (for Palgrave Macmillan), and an edition of the non-epistolary manuscript writings of the puritan Lady Brilliana Harley (for Ashgate’s Early Modern Englishwoman series). She has edited (with Elizabeth Scott-Baumann) The Intellectual Culture of Puritan Women, 1558-1680 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). She is also editing Thomas Traherne’s Select Meditations for OUP (as part of a 14 volume series) and is co-general editor (with Alison Searle) of a project that is editing the complete correspondence of Richard Baxter.

Dr Felicity Henderson

Dr Felicity Henderson’s research centres on 17th century intellectual and manuscript culture, with a particular interest in the history of science. Her first book, Francis Lodwick: On Language, Theology, and Utopia, co-edited with William Poole, was published by OUP in 2011. She is currently co-editing Thomas Browne’s notebooks for the Oxford Complete Works of Sir Thomas Browne, and is also preparing a new edition of the diary of Robert Hooke FRS for OUP. She has also worked on early-modern erudite satire and the circulation of ephemeral texts in manuscript miscellanies.

Dr Eddie Jones

Dr Eddie Jones’s research interests include the devotional and contemplative literature of the late Middle Ages; medieval mystics; hermits and anchorites; medieval religious history. His recent publications include, with Alexandra  Walsham, Syon Abbey and its Books (Boydell, 2010), and with M. Y. Ashcroft, Monastic charters and other documents relating to mediaeval piety in the North Yorkshire County Record Office, (North Yorkshire County Council, 2009). He runs the Hermits and Anchorites Project, and his next book will be a history of hermits in the later middle ages.

Dr Elliot Kendall

Dr Elliot Kendall works primarily on the great household and late medieval writers' engagement with its social dynamics and power (royal and aristocratic). In Lordship and Literature: John Gower and the Politics of the Great Household (OUP, 2008) he focuses on the great household and Gower's Confessio Amantis, and he is currently working on the household imagination of politics from before the Wars of the Roses to the reign of Henry VIII. His research interests include Middle English; Ricardian literature; medieval romance; the aristocracy in medieval society; intersections of ‘literary' and ‘official' texts; and literature and political change between the reigns of Henry VI and Henry VIII.

Professor Gerald MacLean

Professor Gerald MacLean’s research interests include East-West encounters; cultural studies; Ottoman and comparative imperialisms; travel writing; Turkish studies. His recent publications include Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2011), exploring Anglo-Islamic relations in the age before ‘Orientalism’, and, with Nabil Matar, Britain and the Islamic World, 1558-1713 (OUP, 2011).

Professor Nicholas McDowell

Professor Nicholas McDowell is interested in the literary, cultural and intellectual history of 17th-century England, specializing in literature and the English Civil Wars, Milton, and Marvell. He is the author of Poetry and Allegiance in the English Civil Wars: Marvell and the Cause of Wit (OUP, 2008), and The English Radical Imagination: Culture, Religion, and Revolution, 1630-1660 (OUP, 2003). He has edited, with N. H. Keeble, Volume 6 of the Oxford Complete Works of John Milton: Vernacular Regicide and Republican Writings (OUP, 2013). John Milton: An Intellectual Biography is forthcoming from Princeton University Press in 2014. Professor McDowell is a past winner of the Philip Leverhulme Prize.

Professor Andrew McRae

Professor Andrew McRae is the author of books including Literature and Domestic Travel in Early Modern England (CUP, 2009), Literature, Satire and the Early Stuart State (CUP, 2004), and God Speed the Plough: The Representation of Agrarian England, 1500-1660 (CUP, 1996). He is particularly interested in politics and literature, and the literature of space and place, but more generally with the interface between literature and history. He leads The Stuart Successions Project and The Poly-Olbion Project, both funded by the AHRC.

Dr Ayesha Mukherjee

Dr Ayesha Mukherjee’s research interests include famine; dearth; ecology; environment; Mughal India. Her first book, Penury into Plenty: Dearth and the Making of Knowledge in Early Modern England, will be an interdisciplinary study of dearth in England at the turn of the sixteenth century. In 2010-11 she led an AHRC-funded Research Network on Early Modern Discourses of Environmental Change and Sustainability. Her new project will explore the experience of famine in early modern England and Mughal India.

Dr Henry Power

Dr Henry Power works on the literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (especially the period c. 1640-1760), the origins and antecedents of the English novel, and the reception of classical texts and ideas by English writers. His research interests include: theory and representation of landscape; the poetry of the English civil war; the epic tradition; satire and print culture.

Dr Chloe Preedy

Dr Chloe Preedy is the author of Marlowe's Literary Scepticism: Politic Religion and Post-Reformation Polemic (Arden Shakespeare Library, 2013). Her research interests include the ways in which early modern drama engaged with and participated in religious controversy, the theatrical representation of space, early modern propaganda networks, Elizabethan responses to Machiavelli, theatre and performance history, and textual editing.

Professor Philip Schwyzer

Professor Philip Schwyzer is particularly interested in how Renaissance writers imagine and interact with the ancient and medieval past, as well as in literary relations between England and Wales. His books include Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III (OUP, 2013), Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature (OUP, 2007) and Literature, Nationalism, and Memory in Early Modern England and Wales (CUP, 2004). He is Principal Investigator for the Leverhulme-funded project Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in Sacred Space, and the ERC-funded project The Past in its Place. He is also Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded Poly-Olbion Project.

Dr Victoria Sparey

Dr Victoria Sparey is interested in representations of the body, medical practices, family relations and gender identity within early modern literature. Whilst her research, to date, has focused upon the drama of Shakespeare, her interests extend to the works of other early modern playwrights and poets (including Thomas Middleton, Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker, John Ford, John Webster and John Donne).

Research Fellows and fixed-term staff

Dr Naomi Howell

Dr Naomi Howell is Associate Research Fellow on the Leverhulme-funded project ‘Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in Sacred Space', and contributes to the linked ERC-funded project 'The Past in its Place'. Her areas of interest include tombs and funerary sculpture in medieval literature and society, particularly in the Anglo-Norman milieu. More broadly, she is interested in the wider cultural and material contexts which inform the relationship of the living with the past. She is completing a book on monuments and the memory of violence in twelfth-century romance.