My field of specialization is Elizabethan and early Stuart literature, and I have teaching expertise in medieval literature and Milton as well. I’ve published articles on poets like John Donne and George Herbert, on the trope of poetic immortality, and on conceptions of the body in devotional writing, among other topics.
All of these studies have grown out of a fascination with the ways that senses of identity were shaped by reading devotional texts and attempting to apply their teachings. Devotional works mapped out how to act and they served as a lens through which people examined and explained their inner lives.
Ultimately, I’d like to focus my research into two book-length studies. One looks at the results in England of the Reformation call for lay people to read Scripture. I’m studying how the clergy attempted to direct (and limit) lay reading, and how lay people, both men and women, transferred the skills and reading methods they were taught to their own writing projects, sometimes to the dismay of the clergy.
The “reading and writing culture” that I’m studying is one of the first in western history in which ordinary people, not professional writers or scholars, gained the necessary literacy to embrace writing as a way to explore and record their ideas. At the heart of the study is a 900-page manuscript by an Elizabethan gentlewoman. It’s never been published, and I’ve been working, along with student research assistants, to transcribe the manuscript and analyze her writing practices.
I’ve also started work on a book about how identity and emotion were understood in religious discourse, with special attention to where physiology and religion, body and soul, intersect. Scientific knowledge of the human body was changing dramatically during the seventeenth century, and poets sought new ways to talk about embodied experience.