Frank L. Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor
Department of English
Office: Walker 406
Phone: (773) 702-8006
My passion is to bring together two modes of literary study that have, traditionally but needlessly, been seen as antagonistic: formalism and historicism. I am deeply interested in the intellectual history of the early modern period, especially theological and political ideas. I am interested in the ideas themselves but even more in the ways in which they find their way into English and American literature in the period. My book on George Herbert attempts to demonstrate how deeply the central ideas of Reformation theology are at work in the intricate tonal and structural details of the lyrics. My next book, Resistant Structures, brings together methodological and historical concerns. It critiques and tries to work free of various critical and historical schemes and presuppositions; it refuses to idealize "devout humanism" and it refuses to see the thought-world of early modern England as fundamentally conservative and deferential to authority. I demonstrate the presence of resistance to authority in works by Donne (Satire 3), Shakespeare (King Lear), and, in the Restoration period, Nahum Tate (in his adaptation of Lear). My new book, The Unrepentant Renaissance from Petrarch to Shakespeare to Milton, continues the endeavors of historical and intellectual revision, including chapters on text from the whole Renaissance period that praise such things as passion, impatience, worldliness, and pride. My teaching, especially at the graduate level, has followed the whole range of my interests (see below). I have directed dissertations on topics ranging from villain heroes to representations of taverns to the poetics of inarticulateness in Herbert and Dickinson.
Graduate: Women Poets of the Seventeenth Century; Shakespeare and Skepticism; Society and Politics in Shakespeare's Plays; Lear/Lears; The New Historicism in Renaissance Studies; Modes of Renaissance Lyric; Metaphysical Poetry; The Religious Lyric In England and America; John Donne in History and Theory; Renaissance Intellectual Texts: Petrarch to Descartes; Cavell and Criticism; Shakespeare's Venetian Others (co-taught with David Nirenberg)
Undergraduate: Reading Cultures; Philosophical Perspectives; Shakespeare I: Histories and Comedies; Shakespeare II: Tragedies and Romances; Introduction to Poetry; The Development of Shakespearean Comedy; Lyric Poetry from Donne to Dryden; Literary Criticism from Plato to T. S. Eliot
- The Unrepentant Renaissance from Petrarch to Shakespeare to Milton (University of Chicago Press, 2011); Winner, Warren-Brooks Award, Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies.
- Resistant Structures: Particularity, Radicalism, and Renaissance Texts, The New Historicism: Studies in Cultural Poetics 34 (University of California Press, 1995); paperback, 1997.
- Love Known: Theology and Experience in George Herbert's Poetry (University of Chicago Press, 1983); paperback, 1986.
- (ed. with Bradin Cormack and Martha Nussbaum) Shakespeare and the Law: A Conversation Among Disciplines and Professions (University of Chicago Press, 2013, forthcoming).
- (ed. with Derek Hirst) Writing and Political Engagement in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
- (ed. with Donna B. Hamilton) Religion, Literature and Politics in Post-Reformation England, 1540-1688 (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
- (ed. with David L. Smith and David Bevington) The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre and Politics in London, 1576-1649 (Cambridge University Press, 1995); paperback edition, 2002.
- “What Makes Him So Great?” in George Herbert’s Travels: International Print and Cultural Legacies, ed. Christopher Hodgkins (University of Delaware Press, 2011), 3-26.
- “Excuses, Bepissing, and Non-being: Shakespearean Puzzles about Agency,” in Shakespeare and Moral Agency, ed. Michael D. Bristol(Continuum, 2010), pp. 55-68.
- "Martin Luther and the Real Presence in Nature," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 37 (Spring, 2007), 271-303.
- "How Formalism Became a Dirty Word, and Why We Can't Do Without It," in Renaissance Literature and Its Formal Engagements, ed. Mark Rasmussen (Palgrave Press, 2002), pp. 207-215.
- "Shakespeare and the Skeptics" Religion and Literature 32 (2000), pp. 171-196 (special issue on Heterodoxy in the English Renaissance).
- "Milton's Fetters, or, Why Eden Is Better than Heaven" in John Milton: The Author in His Works, ed. Michael Lieb and Albert Labriola, Milton Studies 38 (2000), pp. 169-197 (reprinted, in revised and updated form, in The New Milton Criticism,” ed. Peter Herman and Elizabeth Sauer (Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 25-48]).
- "John Donne Awry and Squint: The 'Holy Sonnets,' 1608-10," Modern Philology 86 (May, 1989), 357-384. [Featured in Margaret Edson's Wit, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1999].
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1976. Teaching at Chicago since 1973.